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Sunday, 15 July 2012

What is the point of Andy Burnham?

Answer:  to point out all the good things that the government is doing to the NHS.

If you think that the NHS is some sort of sacred cow into which endless amounts of tax payer's cash can be shovelled, then you might buy his line.

If on the other hand you think that it is a bureaucratic muddle, employing some of the most overpaid clinical staff in Europe, then his interventions are to be welcomed.  Ah, some might say, but the UK spends about 8% of GDP on the NHS which is about the same as the rest of the world and less than the US.  Not quite, that figure for health spending doesn't include the amount for private healthcare including dentistry, which is what you would need to put us on a direct comparison with the US, so make that figure about 9.5%, and then bear in mind that the GDP denominator is flattered by over £120 billion of deficit spending.  Cut the GDP numbers to a more sustainable figure based on say £35 billion of net borrowing (call that a drop in GDP of £100 billion), then you can factor up that 9.5% of GDP figure up by about 7%, so let's say that in the real world without la-la land deficit spending UK healthcare costs would be about 10.5% of GDP, which is a lot.

The trouble is that while the private sector has been suffering from competition from India and China for years, the public sector has generally lavished itself with great riches at the expense of our grandchildren.  Look at your neighbours and note how, apart from any hedge fund managers, if anybody over the age of 45 is taking home a large wodge of cash these days, they probably work in the public sector.

So the good news is that thousands of doctors and nurses may be sacked unless they agree to drastic changes to their pay and conditions as hospitals strive to make billions of pounds worth of savings, it has been claimed. NHS bosses have suggested terminating all staff contracts and reoffering them on different terms, according to a leaked document obtained by The Sunday Times.

New terms could include pay cuts of up to 5%, an end to overtime for nights, weekends and bank holidays, and reduced holiday leave, the newspaper said. These measures could affect up to 60,000 health professionals in the South West of England, where chief executives have acknowledged they would need to act "in unison", the paper reports.

The document was prepared by 19 NHS bosses to maintain patient services in the face of multimillion-pound budget cuts, The Sunday Times adds. The paper claims at least two other hospitals in Surrey and Manchester have considered the plans, but health chiefs in the South West suggest working together in order to prevent being "singled out" and unable to take on the unions. They believe that by co-operating they will be able to overcome an "extremely hostile" reaction to the steps, especially if they take the "last resort" of sacking all staff and re-engaging them on less favourable terms, The Sunday Times says.

And if you don't think some nurses are overpaid, find out the facts. The average nurse probably isn't, but in many trusts, once a nurse has specialist qualifications, they are straight out of the door and into agency from whence they are hired back to the same hospital at two and a half times the cost.


Anonymous said...

I've spent quite a bit of time in hospitals across the country in recent years, what with inevitable children's accidents, aged mother's ailments as both an in- and out-patient, aged uncle's falls, lengthy rehabilitation and dementia and so on.

The one feature the distinguishes the NHS from any other other organisation, whether public or private sector, is the absence of any sort of urgency.

A&E work is a rapid ballet of professionals, of course, working brilliantly at speed to save lives. Elsewhere, the staff move as if they are walking through cold treacle. Everything is done at half the speed at which the rest of the country works. It really is a small and self-contained time-warp.

On every corner of every corridor, there will be someone hanging about gawping into space, or a couple glumly discussing the weather, television or football. Orderlies move trollies about infuriatingly s-l-o-w-l-y. And so many of them are SO FAT!

Although nobody expects to see hospitals operating in a state of continual panic, there is a case to be made for considerably more speed and efficiency.

A K Haart said...

I've seen what webwrights has seen. Much wandering around, chatting, looking for stuff, looking for people, form-filling and more wandering around. All done slowly.