Management of the NHS is necessary and vital to effective delivery of health services. It is not a process that can be avoided, whoever does it. New Labour needs effective managers in the NHS if they are to bring about the changes they want to see. Manager bashing, which New Labour is showing signs of continuing, is counter productive and encourages a climate of threat for managers which subsequently translates into bad management practice with its inevitable consequences for service quality and productivity. The NHS badly needs a positive long‐term strategy of serious investment in individual and organizational development. It is a question of balanced investment between the long‐term management capability of the NHS and immediate patient care. The major issues of rationing, priorities and the balance between health and health services will always be part of the difficult national and local management task. Some move by politicians in the direction of open recognition of these difficulties and the burden they place on the skill, will and courage of managers could go a long way to building a caring management culture.
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