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“The Price of everything and the value of nothing.” Identifying value within interim management.

I recently attended the NHS Confederation Annual Conference, where Interim Partners were among the exhibiters. The healthcare team had a fantastic few days in Liverpool, and it was great to see familiar faces, old colleagues and to meet many new people too.    

 

The conference was buzzing with conversation surrounding Jeremy Hunt’s announcement of new curbs on agency spend with the current rates being paid by the health service as “not market forces at work, but market failure.” Whilst clinical agency spend by NHS Trusts has been the most widely reported area within the press, the announcement also has implications for interim management and consultancy.    

I applaud the Secretary of State’s determination to extract best value for what is paid.  However, he is wrong that the market is failing.  Market failure would suggest, at least in economical terms, that there is another outcome that would enable someone to be better off without making someone else worse off. I don’t view this as the case for agency, interim management or consultancy spend within the NHS. I view it rather as a result of government failure to focus on the merits of value over cost.  

My colleague Steve Rutherford recently wrote his reflections on price versus value, and I think he is spot on. Frequently press coverage features much hyperbole on costs within the NHS. Examples that come to my mind are the recent reports into the fees charged by Britain’s medical recruiters, which have risen significantly over the last few years. Or it may be the sluggishly longstanding story of the NHS fat cat. Whilst sensational reporting of financial cost tells one story, a focus on value allows us to look at interim management with a very different lens. 

Oscar Wilde fans will recall the quote from the Lady Windermere’s Fan, that a cynic is someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  For me, value is interesting.  If you went shopping with me you would know that a) I dislike shopping and b) I am a massive fan of getting a “good deal.”  I like “buy one get one free” offers, I love loyalty cards.   Yes, of course price is a factor because the majority of us have to budget. However, I’m more interested in value.  As we all know, cheapest or most expensive does not necessarily mean best.    

I vividly remember from my university days a class member’s response (not me in case you were wondering) that their essay was not printed before the deadline because they had used refillable ink cartridges which had somehow leaked into their printer. My lecturer, disappointed at this weak excuse (why not use the library printer?), told the class that the student was a “cheapskate,” was automatically getting a fail for not delivering on-time, and then moved swiftly on to the Duke of Marlborough’s victory at the siege of Bouchain in 1711. The bottom line is if you don’t consider value, or you try and do things “on the cheap” you don’t get a great result - or in this case even a satisfactory one!

What does this mean for the NHS and for the use of providers of interim management? 

I embrace the opportunity that a refocus on value presents for interim management provision. It’s a real opportunity for leading interim management providers to play a significant role in supporting the NHS to identify value. At Interim Partners we use our proprietary Return on Interim (ROI) tool to quantitatively and qualitatively demonstrate the value outcome (good or great) that our interim community delivers.  

Some of the benefits that we see are: 

  • Interim self-certification against agreed objectives and milestones
  • Full visibility in real time of interim performance enabling evaluation of impact
  • Enabling an interim manager to understand the impact of their performance  

A focus on value leads a good interim management provider to truly engage with an organisation at a business level and understand what type of interim manager an organisation requires. This is at the heart of interim management, and I hope Hunt’s pursuit of value will be interpreted and seen for what is it- an optimistic view and desire for achieving great outcomes. 

I’d welcome your thoughts on the potential impact of Hunt’s comments or on the relationship between costs and value.  

David Rason is the Consultant for Healthcare at Interim Partners.

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