The only way to improve our cancer mortality figures is to scrap the targets and continue to sink money into capacity on every level. This doesn't only mean quicker surgery by more operative capacity, it means more radiotherapy capacity, more capacity of adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy, easier access for GPs to diagnostic services and more capacity in the specialist clinics and in radiology departments. It would take a hell of a lot of money to drag us back into line with the rest of Europe on this one after so many years of relatively underspending.
Simon Caulkin's quite magificent article in the Guardian brilliantly exposes just how foolish the government's approach is to these complex problems:
"Target-driven organisations are institutionally witless because they face the wrong way: towards ministers and target-setters, not customers or citizens. Accusing them of neglecting customers to focus on targets, as a report on Network Rail did just two weeks ago, is like berating cats for eating small birds. That's what they do. Just as inevitable is the spawning of ballooning bureaucracies to track performance and report it to inspectorates that administer what feels to teachers, doctors and social workers increasingly like a reign of fear."
You can read the rest of this excellent critique here, it really is a fantastic piece of journalism:
"They even propose a health warning: "Goals may cause systematic problems in organisations due to narrowed focus, increased risk-taking, unethical behaviour, inhibited learning, decreased co-operation, and decreased intrinsic motivation." As a glance at Stafford hospital would tell them, that's not the half of it."