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Sir Gerry Robinson

Gerry Robinson has travelled within me as one of my heroes since his BBC programmes in which he sought to ‘Save the NHS’, and ‘Save Dementia Care’.

As always, it is saddening to learn of his death, and humbling to learn more about him from his obituary. Sir Gerry Robinson obituary | Business | The Guardian

This tells us that he was the son of an Irish couple, born the ninth of ten children in Donegal. His father Tony was a carpenter and brought the family to Whitechapel for work when Gerry was nine. Gerry left school at 14 and studied then at a seminary in Cumbria before leaving to join the firm which made Matchbox toys Lesney Products - Wikipedia. From there he forged a stellar career in business.

He was the ultimate ‘self-made-man’

I knew him only through my television screen and his televised projects in healthcare and social care. There was much about him to identify with. He brought to the failings of a hospital (NHS Trust) in Rotherham, (Rotherham!) a gentle, interested, respectful, but determined and open understanding of the problems and the people, rolled his sleeves up and set about helping them achieve change – Something not far short of a miracle. Can Gerry Robinson Fix the NHS? - YouTube

The most senior manager did not carry an impressive persona and was spending most of his time in his office with papers and emails and all that sort of thing. Meanwhile out in the hospital people were struggling, blaming each other, blaming the government and mostly – blaming the senior manager. Gerry’s advice, and demonstration by doing it, was to walk the wards, the clinics, A and E, operating theatres – and to meet the people of all grades and descriptions – and LISTEN to them – agree a plan with them and make it happen – But keep on walking, keep on talking, keep on listening.

Brilliant – and quite amazingly we saw it work. Even more amazingly it was still working 12 months later when Gerry visited, having been ‘hands-off’ through all the intervening months.

What he did and showed us, was a model which can save the world. He did not ask for more – He got on with what was available – staff, equipment, buildings, finance – and changed a pile of rubble into something organic and beautiful.

I wonder what would have happened if he had been asked to take on the whole NHS. I am sure we would all be grateful.

His second very short series looked at the disaster of care of people with dementia in care home. Not a happy experience – Clearly this was not set up properly – gave him too little time to make the difference he would have wished. But it was wonderful in its perception of the realities of life for the carers as well as the cared for. Carers sleeping on the job as they tried to make ends meet by having two or more jobs. ‘Senior’ staff who were ill-equipped and out of their depths – and a funding system which severely undervalued the needs.

Even Gerry Robinson could not fix all that within the time allowed to him. I am convinced he could have fixed it, given time and given support to use resources to their best effect. BBC Two - Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes?, Episode 1

Much still to be done – but it is not impossible

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