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Ex-Cumbrian health chief says working across Border 'a breath of fresh air'

A former Cumbrian health chief says working over the border in Scotland is “a breath of fresh air” compared to the English system.

Dr Nigel Calvert photo
Dr Nigel Calvert

Nigel Calvert was NHS Cumbria’s associate director of public health until the Government’s high-profile reorganisation of the health service in March this year.

The primary care trust was abolished and his role – planning vaccination and screening programmes and reacting to any outbreaks of illness – moved to a regional office as part of a new body, Public Health England.

Dr Calvert, who lives at Linstock, just north of Carlisle, found himself having to travel to Chorley about four days a week. So when a similar job came up in Dumfries & Galloway he jumped at it.

He got the job, as public health medicine chief, and started on October 1.

Almost two months on and he says it is a breath of fresh air to be working in the Scottish system – away from the unnecessary bureaucracy of the English health service.

“I think the English system needs to change. There are too many bodies. It’s so much simpler in Scotland,” he said.

“In England NHS commissioners – the Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England – get money in and then buy health services from various providers.

“Up here in Scotland you don’t get that. There is one organisation that runs everything – the hospital, public health, community services. To me it just seems a blatantly obvious thing to do.”

He added that various Governments have increased the use of private competition in the English NHS, which again doesn’t happen in Scotland.

“It might work in London and the big cities but for much of England it’s just the wrong model,” he explained.

“There are so many organisations now it’s silly. Before I left I used two pictures to explain it. One was of an old mouse trap; it might need a bit of oil or new cheese but it did the job.

“The other was of the board game Mousetrap, if you remember that, with all different kinds of brightly coloured mechanisms and parts to it that didn’t really do the job any better. I think that’s a good analogy.

“It does seem a lot more straightforward here. I’m pleased with the move.”

Dr Calvert, 50, worked in public health in Cumbria for more than 20 years.

In his last two decades he helped the county deal with everything from E. coli and Legionnaire’s disease, to foot and mouth and the MMR vaccine controversy.

He was also involved in recovery efforts following major incidents, including serious floods, the west Cumbrian shootings, Keswick School bus crash and the Grayrigg train crash.

Have your say

For the record, Nigel has mentioned this many times before unfortunately the NHS structure is such that these decisions are made by the DOH in London not by local public health staff.

Posted by Friend of NC on 20 December 2013 at 22:51

Ted and DE - how do you know he didn't speak out? Have you monitored every communication Dr Calvert ever made, or are you assuming that everything he has done over his career has been reported in the News & Star, and basing your comments solely on that?

According to the article, he is saying that the English NHS system is overly bureaucratic and that in his opinion the Scottish system is more effective due to its greater simplicity. I am sure that, even as an Associate Director and therefore relatively senior within the NHS, the overall organisation of that NATIONAL institution is slightly outside the remit of a Cumbria Public Health Chief?

Posted by Anon on 9 December 2013 at 14:48

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