Protecting the Service Ethic
Much has been said and written over the past while, and correctly so, concerning the service improvements and enhancements that we have witnessed over recent years. The achievement of the National Clinical Programmes, the Cancer Control Programme and Primary Care Strategy stand out among examples of where service availability has been greatly increased, where complex care and treatment is available to the highest international standards and where care in the community setting is being transformed in a way that is understood, holistic and accessible by those who require it. These we know are enduring changes for the better and will be sustained beyond the challenges we now meet. While these changes have emerged from focussed leadership at national level, their durability is a function of the daily commitment, leadership and belief that attends to their delivery at operational level and on a daily basis.
Such commitment is found across all services and across all professional grades and is the service ethic which binds and brands what we do on a daily basis. It is driven largely by the personal values of our staff and is derived from a deep personal meaning and belief that we work in the health services to alleviate suffering and achieve well being, in so far as we can, for those with whom we come in contact.
With all its imperfections and faults, our health system has been served well by this service ethic. More than ever now, it needs to be accommodated and reinforced in an environment where the all consuming focus is on the cost of inputs and the achieving of bottom lines in financial terms. The service ethic must be insulated from new cultures and over bearing management rigors, which if unchecked and unbalanced, can in time undermine and devalue much of what is being achieved.
Service delivery must continue to be underpinned by the personal values and commitment of those working in the service. It is a people business, defined at the end of day, by a humanity which is common to us all.