Posted by: Witch Doctor | September 3, 2009

Followership and wild flowers


It happened in 1984. The Orwellian year. A very special year for The Witch Doctor.

She remembers The Griffith’s Report well.

Griffiths was deputy chair and managing director of Sainsbury’s.


“The measure was to launch a cultural revolution and 25 years of continuous change.”

Damned right it did. A quarter century of continuous change is exactly what we got.

“Regional health authorities had four months to appoint their own general managers, then embark on district health authority appointments. Districts had until the end of 1985 to find unit general managers. The Department of Health began recruiting a national general manager. Mr Griffiths said this should be someone “almost certainly” from outside the NHS and civil service, with experience of effecting change in a large organisation.”

What Mr Griffiths did not appreciate was that there was no organization in the world as large and as complex as the NHS. No-one had that kind of experience. But the managers were appointed to the NHS juggernaut and set about trying to train the hospitals to become chains of grocery stores or shoe shops or telephone exchanges or coal mines.

At times they had a degree of success but only if they could take some of the staff with them some of the time.

But most managers found it stressful and some did not last the pace.


She remembers the first General Manager in her neck of the woods.

Oh, yes. Indeed she does.

He didn’t seem to be stressed at all.

He generated fear. He believed in iron rods. He was one of the “turn the screw till they squeal” brigade just like a Chief Executive who made an appearance some years later.

Neither of them lasted long.

The Witch Doctor can remember clearly the very day she started to mistrust the new system.

It was about seven thirty one morning when the Witch Doctor arrived for her clinic in a satellite hospital.

(The clinic doesn’t start till 9.00am but there is never anywhere to park then. The secret is to take some reading or dictating or paperwork with you and work in peace in the consulting room with the door firmly shut for an hour and a half till the first patients arrive.)

At 7.30 am it was a beautiful morning but as The Witch Doctor walked up to the main entrance of the building she passed a row of tubs that should have contained flowers but seldom did. The neglect was obvious. No-one watered these tubs. Ever. And they were too close to the overhanging roof to receive very much rain. So only the most invasive of weeds survived there. That day everything was so dry that even the weeds were on their last legs.


We witches have a saying:

“May all your weeds be wild flowers”

We don’t mind weeds at all. In fact the bottom of The Witch Doctor’s garden where the foxes live is a veritable haven of rampant weeds, wild flowers and trees that self seeded decades ago.

In the cultivated part of the garden, The Witch Doctor even has a little dandelion patch (friendly happy shiny faces), a clover patch (beautiful scent and occasional good luck) and a buttercup patch (for the vase in the spell pantry). She carefully brings harebells and foxgloves on from seed in the greenhouse and plants them in the rough parts at the edge of the lawn and under the trees because she thinks they are very beautiful flowers.

But we don’t plant our wild flowers in tubs!!!

I’m rambling………..


So, The Witch Doctor noticed the dying, dried up weeds in the row of tubs at 7.30 am.

At 8.50 am she discovered she had left her stethoscope in the car, so nipped out to fetch it.

Low and behold, the tubs were now filled with in-your-face multi-colored petunias, geraniums, begonias, fuchsias and busy lizzies interspersed with variegated ivy leaves which trailed to the ground.

Something’s happening, thought The Witch Doctor.

A couple of hours later when The Witch Doctor ventured out of her room to call in the next patient, she saw an entourage.

Like royalty.

But no sign of The Queen or any other member of the Royal Family.

Instead, the entourage was headed by The General Manager and a rather well known Member of Parliament plus a few doctors and nurses who were edging over into management.

A colleague was at the tail end of the entourage and he whispered to The Witch Doctor as he passed by.

“What a fiasco. It’s all up front. All show.”

Anyway The Witch Doctor was pleased that the tubs were now a colourful display. At least they would cheer the patients up for a few weeks. If somebody watered them.

When The Witch Doctor left that night, there were no flowers.

The tubs were empty again.

Even the weeds had gone.


That is The Witch Doctor’s memory of the start of the management structure introduced in The Griffiths Report.

All up front. All show. Little substance.

And so, 25 years on, NHS Chief Executive David Nicholson has the view:


“I would argue that the market has failed. Whatever the system is that we’ve been using, it simply hasn’t delivered the quality or quantity of leaders that we’ve needed.

“We’ve made some progress with the diversity of leadership in the NHS and there are undoubtedly more women, more people from black and minority ethnic communities and more clinicians involved than there were five to 10 years ago but we still need more.”

More of what?

Redheads, people with painted toe nails, witches, black cats?

Why, nowadays, does every other paragraph refer to leaders, My Black Cat?

And why nowadays, does every other sentence mention diversity. This is the ultimate marker that patronising bigotry exists within a nation.

The links were picked up from Dr Grumble’s interesting daily readings at the top right hand corner of his blog.

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redapple.jpg a red apple ……………………

The Witch Doctor – Link to a random page





© Dlundin |

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