I remember reading from the economist JK Galbraith’s writings about economic regulators, in which he observed: ‘...regulatory bodies, like the people who comprise them, have a marked life cycle. In youth they are vigorous, aggressive, evangelistic, and even intolerant. Later they mellow, and in old age - after a matter of ten or fifteen years - they become, with some exceptions, either an arm of the industry they are regulating or senile.’(1)
HPC celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, hardly a lifetime, but long enough to look back and ask – have we remained true to our central objective - to protect the public? One of the ways we address this question is to reflect on our strategic intent document on a regular basis. This document, above all others, should articulate that central objective. It should set out clearly who we are, what we do and how we do it.
The strategic conversations that we have on the Council range from conversations that aim to make sense of new policies and changes in health and social care from a regulatory perspective, to those that focus on organisational priorities and outcomes. Creating strategy is not a science; it is a craft, one part of an organisation’s way of responding to internal and external influences whilst maintaining a clear focus on what it is there to do. This ‘crafting’ is inextricably linked to the organisational culture and the quality of working relationships which allow the conversations to flow into actions.
The revised strategic intent document that you will find on our web pages is, therefore, our current statement on how we think we should deliver public protection in health and social care. It describes our values – the underlying principles and ethical basis for what we do, our vision – how we would like to be seen in the future, and our key objectives. We aim to deliver efficient and effective regulation, maintaining our ‘can do’ culture of continuous quality improvement, tackling difficult decisions in an informed way, collaborating, anticipating and being proactive in our approach. The ways in which we deliver this must change as we do. As we grow in size and complexity, working with new groups and new stakeholders, we must maintain clarity of purpose and fidelity to our values and vision. This is the strongest defence against Galbraith’s sound and salutary observations. Complacency is surely the enemy of excellence, and the seedbed of senility.
Anna van der Gaag
(1) Galbraith, John Kenneth (1954). The Great Crash, 1929.