There is a story on the BBC web site: Whitehall reorganisation ‘cost £780m in four years’, it tells how government departments are created, destroyed, merged and split at incredible speed and frequency. The same story could be told about the NHS, education, transport and within many other departments over the last 20 years. It seems that major structural change in the public sector is much too common while improvement in delivering services is not very common at all.
I would recommend to the next government, whatever their colours, that they put in place a policy of not changing the macro, national structures of their departments and delivery arms for at least 10 years. Policies such as new foundation hospitals or yet again reorganising the railways should be put on hold.
I am usually an advocate of change but in this case I think the public sector needs time to take a breath. It seems that workers in the front line are simultaneously trying to implement the latest changes, the changes before that, do their jobs and also prepare for the next set of changes. No wonder fundamental improvements to work are so slow to materialise.
You can only get good at a system if you have time to work in it. Constant flip-flopping between local, regional and central control is a good example. All systems have their flaws, but let’s pick one – and I suggest that whatever the current one is, is the best place to start. Then let’s get good at that system for the next 10 years before looking to make big changes.