St Simon says, “By their fruits ye shall know them”

We arose before dawn and made our way from all over the countryside, building into a great multitude. King’s Fund had promised a breakfast meeting but coffee and one small pastry had to suffice – we were here to hear St Simon Stevens.

We were not disappointed. “By their fruits ye shall know them” – his words of authority flowed. “He’s talking about outcome measures” whispered someone in the crowd near me.

He told us of the 268 who had answered his call to the New Models of Care army. “170 of the Vanguardistas are GP led, who will become Multispecialty Community Providers”. A group on the left started cheering, but they’d misheard it as “Guardianistas”.

We felt encouraged, but St Simon was not in the mood for platitudes. “We should feel righteous anger over poor care in the NHS” he blasted. No tame lion.

Then almost as a throwaway line it came. not just for the vanguard, the whole country needs to turn from its old ways, and the big agenda is “workforce, tech, infrastructure.”

We were desperate for more but the moment passed and it seemed we would have to wait for the outworking of how. There was barely a nod to the secular authorities but perhaps he was biding his time with the detail until the new Caesar is elected. Mean time there are followers to build up.

“Blessed are the pharmacists”, noted St Simon, “There is a great draught of them, and we need to find them a role in general practice, which we will do right soon. And we can’t continue to underinvest in primary care”

It was question time, and the people brought their burdens unto Simon. There was a word for Child Mental Health, for Asthmatics, and those with Premises. Then, pursued by scribbling press, as suddenly as he came he was spirited away to another place.

It’s hard to carry the hopes of a nation, and he’s resisting calls to declare infallibility. The words have changed from the Stalinist Five Year Plan – he never said targets. Seems he’s trying to create a Five Year collective vision and it’s a message for strivers.

If we hang onto nothing else but “By their fruits ye shall know them” there are reasons for optimism. Working out what to measure and how to measure it is crucial to enabling improvement and system change. Get that right Simon and the people will do the rest.


Harry Longman
Founder, Chief Executive
GP Access Ltd

PS it’s worth listening to the highlights on King’s Fund website here.

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