THIS week I am feeling a sense of both excitement and nervousness because I am doing something for the first time I have been planning for several years, namely publishing my first book.
It is the product of three lockdowns but actually something I started working on seven years ago when I was health secretary – a book that talks about how we need to change and improve the culture of the NHS.
It is not a memoir, although I do tell stories from my time in office – in particular of the many remarkable patients, families, doctors and hospital managers I met.
Nor is it an attempt to present my time in office in a positive light. Although necessarily subjective, I have tried to be honest about the things I failed to achieve as well as the areas where I was more successful.
Instead it looks at some of the problems in today’s NHS and seeks to do something few books about contemporary affairs actually do, namely to answer the question: So what should we actually do to solve the issues we face?
When it comes to the NHS our debate tends to be both politically and emotionally charged.
It is politically charged because health is the largest single item of government expenditure, soon to account for 40 per cent of the government’s budget.
It is rightly therefore heavily scrutinized by both parliament and the press.
But the debate is also emotionally charged because every family in the country both depends on the NHS and cares deeply about it.
Given how many column inches are already devoted to the NHS, I have therefore tried to go beyond the normal debates about funding and staffing and look at some of the deeply-ingrained cultural challenges that prevent the NHS reaching its full potential.
I look at the blame culture, which makes it very hard for doctors, midwives and nurses to be open when they have made a mistake – which means lessons are not learned.
I examined whether we were right to move away from a system where everyone had their own family doctor.
I look at targets and whether we are right to have more targets than any other healthcare system in the world.
I look at the role of lawyers when it comes to clinical litigation.
I consider the role of technology and also look at the social care system which has yet to see the long-term plan that we now have in health.
The NHS has just had its toughest two years. It has a mountain to climb to deal with the backlog of more than six million people waiting for care.
But I hope as we tackle that we also think about the long-term changes that could help the NHS become a safer healthcare system with less avoidable harm and death.
As I take the plunge and publish it, I should also thank people locally whose own stories about the NHS have contributed to my understanding of these issues.
Not all of your stories appear in the book but your experiences helped me to reach the conclusions I did.
My book is serialized from this weekend in The Times and The Sunday Times and will also feature on TimesRadio.
I look forward to the many thoughtful emails I know I will receive from those who read it!