2 min read

Taxpayers' Alliance want more statism on NHS pay: Health Policy Today, 11th September 2008

In Tom Smith's temporary absence, Health Policy Today is a somewhat less full round-up than usual, but one story stuck out so much this had to appear.

Taxpayers' Alliance want NHS wages policy on managers' pay: Health Policy Today, 11th September 2008

It may seem strange, but it’s true. Today’s Daily Telegraph reports that the Taxpayers’ Alliance (slogan: campaigning for lower taxes and better government) have both been hiding their statist light under a highly convincing pro-market bushel.

Now the TA have seen the light, and apparently wants to see wage rates set in Whitehall by the Health Secretary, rather than locally by individual bodies. It appears that for Sinclair, when it comes to pay, centralism is the new localism The sound of a dropped bedpan must be ringing in Nye Bevan’s ears …

You can see here (www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/health/2799501/NHS-Trust-criticised-for-extravagant-spending-on-temporary-wages.html) what has made TA policy analyst Malcolm Sinclair so apoplectic: the salaries paid by Worthing and Southands Hosptals NHS Trust are, he alleges, "outrageous".

"Paying well over the odds for one employee is bad enough, but employing three hugely expensive temps shows a cavalier disregard for how taxpayers' money is spent. It is absolutely astonishing that the Trust are so incompetent that they have failed to find proper replacements for three key posts.

"To waste thousands of pounds a day on temporary staff at a time when taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet and patients are being denied crucial treatment on the grounds of cost is an absolute outrage."

Sinclair is curiously unaware of “the odds” in senior NHS management. These are some of the least secure jobs going (the average tenure in post is around 18 months, according to the NHS Confederation’s figures), with media vilification an ever-present risk. Senior NHS managers are relatively well-paid – similar to a slightly-above average estate agent, pre-crunch - because their jobs are demanding and difficult. The complexity now involved in running an NHS trust is considerable, and peoples lives depend on getting it right.

Taxpayers' Alliance - politicians of envy?
More to the point, wouldn’t criticising a person’s earnings be ‘the politics of envy’? Because surely the TA refrain about how terrible the managers are in the public sector has to be accompanied by the mantra that “you need private sector management” – who will of course earn more because the private sector is just, well, automatically better.

Except that most of the private sector people who came into NHS management after Sir Roy Griffiths’ NHS report for Margaret Thatcher didn’t last long and didn’t create nirvana.

Nor did the private sector management takeover of Good Hope Hospital by Tribal Consulting achieve miracles: the trust merely went from zero stars to one star while its considerable deficit increased. Tribal admitted defeat in trying to turn it round, and Good Hope was subsequently taken over by a neighbouring NHS Foundation Trust.

Moreover, some of the staff are working on short-term contracts, as a trust spokesman points out: "The temporary nature of these projects means that it would not be appropriate to make permanent appointments."