Sunday, October 22, 2006

The NHS pseudo-crisis - engineered by opposition politicians, union leaders and the BMA.

I feel huge sympathy for the thousands of NHS employees whose jobs are ‘under threat’. I spent the final eleven years of my employment under threat of redundancy. One reorganisation followed another and we endured two painful mergers which felt more like take-overs.

I’m sure you wouldn’t want to return to the ‘good old days’ when, to get your car or home insured, you had to fill in incomprehensible forms and post them off or take them to your local tobacconist. And making a claim consumed vast amounts of time and paper. The industry had to react to changes in technology and customers’ expectations. We workers were the ‘victims’. Although many thousands were at risk in reality far fewer actually lost their jobs. Many who left were, like me eventually, people who relished the chance of taking their lives in another direction.

So it will be in the health service. Of those whose jobs do disappear, some will leave and many will find themselves new roles inside the service. This might mean relocation and all these changes will be painful. But the numbers who end up being made redundant against their will will be small.

I don’t blame union leaders for trying to protect their members jobs but the sensible ones will show flexibility and will help their members through this difficult time. I hope that Dave Prentis is wrong; according to Union Futures he said on GMTV this morning that "The crisis within the National Health Service could cost the Labour Party the next election". If he’s right it means that the NHS is doomed.

It can’t survive without changing. We can’t go back to the days of huge wards and ‘Carry on nurse’ style matrons or to the Tory neglect that saw it stagnating for eighteen years. It has to change and go on changing for ever otherwise it will fail to meet its patients needs and expectations. The only other option is to let a Tory government dismantle it; we mustn’t let that happen.

The protests against ‘cuts’ around here have been whipped up by Tory and Lib Dem politicians and attended largely by people with little real knowledge of their health service. It’s easy to tug the nostalgia strings with a ‘save our whatever’ campaign and ignore the fact that the ‘whatever’ is no longer suitable for twenty-first century treatment. And the BMA seems sometimes to behave like the bad old print unions who tried to preserve their members outrageously cushy over paid jobs against the march of time...


At 13:55, Blogger Elephunt said...

I noted an article in the local press about a local hospital being 'axed'.As it turns out the hospital in question is being rebuilt with £85 million and becoming a new early diagnostics centre and minor injuries unit- offering more services than it did previously.The Lib Dem who was condemning the 'axing' of the hospital claimed he was defending services and jobs. I think that shows the current level of the debate on the NHS and how our opponents try to cash in on ANY change be it good or bad...

At 20:04, Blogger Jon Rogers said...

I think you are missing the point here mate. Unions don't campaign against spending increases and more jobs. We do fight job losses (and privatisation but I suppose that is another story). If we lived in a country that wasn't set to waste billions on Trident then you might have a point.

At 11:15, Blogger Hughes Views said...

elephunt - our blesséd Lib Dem MP is always proudly at the front of these protests. Around here they've been about the emergency measures proposed because the (now abolished) PCTs failed to balance their books. What he keeps quiet about is the presence of his wife and other Lib Dems on the boards of said PCTs. Now it's a good thing I'm not a conspiracy theorist or I might begin to wonder if it was just by accident that they failed to balance the books. Along with the many Tories on the boards, they couldn't have been trying to embarrass HMG I suppose?!

Jon - welcome and thanks. I agree that unions should fight to preserve jobs where possible but they wouldn’t be behaving responsibly if they tried to keep going ones that are clearly no longer needed. They should be looking instead for proper redeployment opportunities. And some of my former colleagues at British Railways tell me that privatisation was the best thing that ever happened to them. Astute unions might see it as a way of boosting membership in the private sector, in DHL for example...


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