17 February, 2014 - 17:11 By Tony Quested

Papworth betrayal cuts out heart of UK competitiveness

The latest incarnation of Robin Hood policy from the Government could have lasting and extremely damaging repercussions for Cambridge, for medical science, for the UK economy and for future generations.

A muddle-headed mandarin has recommended that Papworth Hospital’s projected move to Cambridge Biomedical Campus should be sacrificed in a merger with the NHS’s biggest loss-making trust, Peterborough & Stamford.

This is not the first example of government tendency to take from the rich to give to the poor. The profit making South Cambridgeshire District council was outraged when it was ordered to donate a share of its spoils to prop up loss-making councils.

The regional development agencies sustained by Whitehall regularly dissipated millions of pounds of resources annually by filtering funds into lost causes rather than pump-prime organisations that had the best chances of success.

But the Papworth situation illustrates more starkly than any other example why Britain cannot hope to be competitive globally or taken seriously as a proponent of best practice.

Diluting excellence and tolerating failure are symptoms of the same debilitating disease. This time last year the Peterborough & Stamford trust was identified not only as a lost cause but also as beyond repair.

The picture painted by independent assessor Monitor was that the trust was not just dead but buried and beyond all hope, let alone recall.

Papworth’s move to the Biomedical Campus was set to help create a world-leading centre of excellence for heart and lung research. Much more than this. Its presence there would inspire and help other globally renowned organisations on campus to collaborate on cutting edge research into the underlying causes of heart and lung disease.

The biomedical campus is becoming a globally envied centre of collaborative research that cuts across disease disciplines and encourages cross-pollenation of ideas between researchers, academics, surgeons, clinicians, consultants and medical technology companies.

Now, instead of allowing Papworth to act as a catalyst for Cambridge to become world number one for cross-sector medical science, it is felt by someone within the Civil Service more sensible to throw the whole resource – one envied by every other country in the world – down the toilet in what everyone knows is a futile exercise.

This will cost Britain many millions in cash and untold damage to future resource and reputation. Since when could austerity Britain afford such recklessness?

David Cameron should invite the mandarin concerned to address a think tank of handpicked internationally renowned medical specialists and be made to justify this hari-kiri healthcare policy and its potential societal backlash.

As a wider point, No.10 should address the apparent bias toward failure in local and central government and the NHS. If businesses were run on the same lines – putting up with third rate operators, shoddy standards and perennial failure – they would have no customers and would quickly go bust.

It’s perverse to do anything other than cut rotten apples out of a barrel rather than allow them to fester and infect the healthy stock. As a matter of course we should be backing hard working winners not lazy losers – and we should certainly not throw perfectly healthy bodies into what amounts to a pit of lime at a huge loss to the Treasury and the Taxpayer.

The Government needs to appoint a Zero Tolerance Tsar mandated to apply boots to backsides, feet to flames and drive out the insidious incompetence that threatens to sap the excellence that should be making Britain ‘Great’ again.

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