Wednesday 3 June 2015

Dogma rules - but only when it suits them

The government is to force all  "failing" and possibly "coasting" schools as well, to be come "academies" whether they or the parents and local community like it or not, in spite of the fact that an all-party  parliamentary committee  found  no evidence that schools "free from local authority control" do an better than others.  Dogma triumphs over both evidence and democracy.

However in the field of  health care the government is, curiously, more flexible.  When Ed Miliband proposed a cap on the prices the energy companies could charge, the idea was scorned by the Tories. Such "interference with the operation of the free market" was totally beyond the pale  and would probably result in putting the lights out.

However, yesterday Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, decided to cap the rates that the agencies could charge the NHS for temporary supplies of nurses and doctors.  And a good thing too, but hugely illogical. How come such "interference with  market forces" is suddenly OK?

I am, however,  very uneasy about the concept of "agency" doctors and nurses, and, for that matter, supply teachers too.  In the medical sphere, as a youth I consumed voraciously the novels of A J Cronin and was inspired to read about young men (mostly) entering medicine and devoted to the concept of furthering medical knowledge and techniques, healing individuals and serving their hospitals and  communities.  Similarly the young teachers I trained and served with were, for the most part enthusiastic, dedicated to inspiring their pupils and helping to create good schools.

I'm sure there are good reasons why some doctors, nurses and teachers make the decision to become "agency" but it seems to me that the vision of long-term service and commitment to an institution, be it school or hospital,  is either reduced or lacking entirely.  Some, doubtless, will be working under such conditions as a prelude to finding a full time job. But I hope it's not unfair to suggest that for many it is an opportunity to avoid responsibly, and earn, per hour worked, substantially more that their co-workers who have that commitment.

Nor can I see that such working under such sporadic conditions can generate much professional satisfaction.

Mr Hunt's proposal is a welcome measure, but is essentially short term.  The long term solution is to train enough doctors, nurses (and teachers) to staff our hospitals (and schools) properly with permanent and dedicated professionals.

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