UK Politics

Can the NHS be at breaking point if it is advertising jobs like this?

Back to the supposed apocalypse in the NHS

BY Iain Martin | iainmartin1   /  9 January 2017




A reader gets in touch to point out that in the Guardian there is an advert for a part-time Assistant Director of Equality and Diversity at Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust. The salary for the winning candidate is £46,625 – £57,640 per annum. That’s more than a teacher in Inner London (on the upper pay ranges) earns. It’s more than is earned by a captain in the British army, and about the same as a Major.

And all to do this…

“You’ll look to continually develop programmes that deliver our Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy 2015 – 2019, which sets out a powerful vision: valuing the voices of diverse people to be the best we can. It’s a chance to lead and champion the development and delivery of all aspects of our equality and diversity work. This senior role will see you deputising for the Associate Director of Inclusion and Community, including working with external partners to advocate for the areas of Access, Community Partnership and Equality. You’ll also establish strong monitoring arrangements so we can track our progress.”

Is this what a healthcare organisation short of cash and yet again said to be in crisis should be spending our money on? When we are told there is a “humanitarian crisis” in our hospitals?

That Britain has a growing problem with social care is hardly a surprise, although it is worrying. The number of citizens aged over 85 is expected to double between 2020 and 2030, and the stress and strain on services is already apparent.

Factor in this winter’s bug of choice and in parts of the NHS the Christmas season was extremely difficult for staff to manage. People who haven’t had the bug seem mystified by what is going on. Yet millions of us who have had it (terrible persistent cough dubbed the 100 day cough by the Chinese and a total bugger of a cold that knocks you flat) take a less sanguine view. If this can debilitate people over the age of 40, just think what it is doing to the fragile elderly.

What is required in such circumstances is targeted action at the hospitals that are struggling most, although we are virtually alone in the developed world in thinking that somehow the government from Whitehall and a ministerial desk can organise this effort efficiently.

Then there needs to be a proper discussion about how the rising bill and need for social care is to be handled in the coming decades. The idea that the problem should be addressed with a vast nationalised force – replicating the existing problems of an over-centralised NHS – strikes me as bananas, but I would very much like to hear from anyone with more constructive ideas on how the demographic change might be dealt with, getting maximum care efficiently when money is tight. In time technology is surely going to play an increasing role but it cannot do everything.

That is for later. Back to today and the supposed apocalypse in the NHS. An organisation that should know better implied that what is going on is somehow equivalent to the events in Mosul or Syria. The Red Cross first warned of a “humanitarian crisis” in the NHS in the autumn, and then came back for another go at the weeked. It is having to help out at hospitals. This produced expressions of horror. The NHS is so under-funded that the Red Cross has had to be called in! The very thought! What level of degradation has Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt reduced Britain to?

The reality is that the Red Cross and the St John’s Ambulance have both been helping out for decades. As the Red Cross put in on its own website almost exactly a year ago:

“The pressures on A&E are often in the news, but supporting the NHS is not new to us. In fact the Red Cross has been working in health and social care for more than 30 years. And that experience is paying off.”

The other problem with the rhetoric of recent days is that it dulls the senses. We have heard it all so often before. The predictions of looming collapse are so grotesque, and often from people who will consider no health reform, none, other than more money, and have been stated with such vehemence so many times down the years that it has all acquired a boy who cried wolf feel.

Indeed, how can any organisation be said to be at breaking point, or using every penny it gets from taxpayers wisely, when it is advertising that post of a part-time Assistant Director of Equality and Diversity?