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Editor's blog 3 June 2009: A little catch-up: surgical sexism, pots calling kettles black and Darzi and poetry

Good morning to you. Time is not my friend today, so this will be by way of a short catch-up.

Item! I am no longer acting press officer for NHS Alliance. The real press officer returned to work yesterday (welcome back Ana), and so both you, dear reader, and I can lose any concern about me using this as a mouthpiece for a client. I hope we both know I wouldn't, but you've got to be open about these matters. Ask MPs.

Surgical sexism
Item! Good Lord! Apparently there are these things called 'women' working in the NHS, and they have 'babies' ... what on earth are we to do? It would be mildly funny if it weren't such a poor reflection on the medical profession and HR practice.

Flexible working and women in the workplace are a Fact Of Life, chaps. Reproduction is, too. It shouldn't be such a surprise to trained medics ...

This issue is not new, and it's not surprising. It's not particularly hard to plan for, and given that it will probably result in more part-time working, it's not even necessarily more expensive (though training costs would probably have to rise). It is different to what is traditional, but nothing more.

The magnificent quote from Royal College of Surgeons president John Black, "Managing surgical cases is both highly unpredictable and technical, going some way to explain why there are fewer women going into surgery.", surely sets the royal collegehood back ten years (into the early nineteenth century).

Oh John. John, John, John. Do you seriously suggest that women have issues with the highly unpredictable? Spend a day with a mother and her two children. You will learn about the highly unpredictable. Meanwhile, try to drag yourself kicking and screaming into the 1960s or thereabouts.

And the "technical" bit? No, of course women can't do technical things. Shouldn't worry their pretty little heads. Spot of knitting and an improving novel, maybe a pretty kitten. They'll be fine.

Pot - "that kettle is black!"
Item! The medical profession, in the guise of the BMA consultants' conference, thinks there is too much jargon in the NHS.

Yes, you did hear that correctly. The entirely jargon-free medical profession. As the Plain English Campaign spokeswoman Marie Clair observes, "doctors are not exempt from using inaccessible language".

Jargon is of course unhelpful. It is designed to keep people out: it is membership of a club. NHS management may not do much world-class commissioning, but its jargon use (sorry, "utilization") is of galactic proportions. One of the occasional pleasures of freelancing is to be asked to translate NHS-speak into English. I also once worked on a medical textbook, and that was not appreciably worse.

In the words of Ben Jonson, "language most showeth the man: speak, that I may see thee".

Darzi the poet
Item! While we are on the subject of poets, Health Minister Professor The Lord Darzi Of Denham is obviously a fan of eighteenth century poet William Mountfort's Zelmane, containing the line "be still, my beating heart".

This is a stunning innovation. Will John Black allow women to use such a technical device?