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DHSC: Highlights from MI5

Summary:
Victoria Street. Early March 2020 “Humphrey” “Yes Minister?” “Everyone is saying we have to do something about this pandemic thingy.” “Don’t worry, Minister, it’s all in hand. Our world beating Public Health team have a plan.” “Good.  I’m told the Korean and Germans have got things under control with a test and trace system.” “No, no, Minister, we don’t need that.  We’re not the snoopers they are. We will lock everyone in their own homes so no testing and tracing will be needed.” “Starting immediately?” “I’ve been in touch with the PM’s office on your behalf. The Jockey Club have asked them to hold back until after the Cheltenham Gold Cup.” One month later “Humphrey.  The hospitals are all complaining they’ve got no protective equipment and they are running out of beds. Where’s this

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Victoria Street. Early March 2020 

“Humphrey” 

“Yes Minister?” 

“Everyone is saying we have to do something about this pandemic thingy.” 

“Don’t worry, Minister, it’s all in hand. Our world beating Public Health team have a plan.” 

“Good.  I’m told the Korean and Germans have got things under control with a test and trace system.” 

“No, no, Minister, we don’t need that.  We’re not the snoopers they are. We will lock everyone in their own homes so no testing and tracing will be needed.” 

“Starting immediately?” 

“I’ve been in touch with the PM’s office on your behalf. The Jockey Club have asked them to hold back until after the Cheltenham Gold Cup.” 

One month later 

“Humphrey.  The hospitals are all complaining they’ve got no protective equipment and they are running out of beds. Where’s this plan?” 

“Owing to an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances beyond our control, Minister, the virus is not the one we had anticipated. We will make bed space by sending all the DTOCs - that’s the bed blockers, Minister - into care homes.” 

“Even if they are infected with the plague.” 

“You have to make difficult decisions, Minister, but you can say you are doing so with a heavy heart.  And thanks, by the way, for getting supplies of PPE from, if I may be so bold, unlikely contacts of your associates down at the club.”  

One month later 

“Humphrey. Jeremy Hunt is still going on about test and trace. Maybe he’s right?” 

“Yes, I think your decision, Minister, not to commission the necessary technology, may possibly have been on the obverse side of optimal.” 

My decision?”  

“Civil servants, merely advise, Minister. But all is not lost: we can have a world beating system up and running in a month.  You remember you appointed Lady Harding to do nothing at the NHS? She has mobile phone leadership experience, she was at Oxford with David Cameron and, as a rider of racehorses, is used to doing things at speed?” 

“Excellent, Humphrey, just the person we want. And ordering 100 million vaccine doses was excellent too. We don’t know when we’ll get them but shouldn’t we plan the distribution and jabbing for when we do?” 

“If I may say this, Minister, with the deepest respect, your suggestions sometimes verge on the hasty. You do realise we have a plethora of impediments demanding our closest and immediate attention. We have no doses today, so a distribution plan today would avail us nothing.” 

Six months later 

“Good news, Minister, the Pfizer vaccine has been approved and is immediately available.  The Today Programme want a Minister to discuss your rollout plan.  To spare your blushes, I had a word with my opposite number at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. They are good on planning and have several ministers with nothing much to do. They’ll send someone along and we can just announce that we have 800,000 doses now, five million by the year end and there’s finally light at the end tunnel.” 

“But without a distribution plan, Humphrey, there’s no hope of five million jabs by the end of the year.”  

“No one else knows that and it will give cover while the new minister comes up with one.” 

One month later 

“Humphrey, I have had to admit to the media that we’ve only done one, not five, million jabs. Luckily the Oxford vaccine has now come on stream and they say they can deliver two million doses a week with immediate effect. So I’ve announced we’ll vaccinate the 13 million health workers and over 80s by mid February.  How about that for a shot in the arm?” 

“Very droll, Minister.  How did you work it out?” 

“One million in December and two million times the six weeks from when the Oxford vaccine became available.” 

“Oh dear.  I fear that was verging on, if I may say so, the jejune.  Indeed, jejune seems to be busting out all over.  Forgive my little joke. You may not be aware of four problems: when we ordered the 100 million doses, we didn’t order the 100 million vials to put them in.  All the NHS doctors and nurses are over-stretched dealing with the new peak Covid cases so they cannot take on jabbing as well.  There are 30,000 recently retired doctors and nurses but they have to complete 21 forms each and the NHS doesn’t have the staff to check them. Finally, using the army, which could sort this out in the blink of an eyelid, is unacceptable to the NHS.  You must realise, Minister, that the NHS is our national religion and must emerge as the hero.  We cannot have the army taking any of their credit.” 

“Phew!  It all just shows we should have had a plan.” 

“True, Minister.  It’s a pity you decided against having one.”    

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Tim Ambler
Tim Ambler (born 1937) is a British organizational theorist, author and academic on the field of Marketing effectiveness. Ambler featured on Marketing's list of the 100 most powerful figures in the industry. He is cited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of the top 50 marketing experts in the world

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