Health worker complaints show need for reform

It’s only two issues in, but the North West Enquirer is shaping up to be a decent little newspaper. Yet it’s lengthy exposé of the NHS from the health workers’ perspective is most effective at giving its subjects rope to hang themselves with.

Take Dr Don MacKechnie’s story. Dr MacKechnie complains:

‘At three hours the patient’s tracking screen becomes red. Then we have to act, do something to ensure they get priority treatment. This isn’t for clinical reasons, but to achieve the target.’

It may be that a patient’s condition is such that they could sit around for another three days without dropping dead on Dr MacKechnie, but any medical treatment is urgent to the patient. And few of us like hanging around hospitals. Waiting rooms can be crowded with people you’d rather not sit with and, more often than not, car parking is difficult and expensive. Whenever you speak to someone who’s been to hospital waiting times quickly dominate conversation.

It sounds like Dr MacKechnie’s never going to see you in the first three hours, just because. So let’s bring those targets right down. An hour and a half should do it.

And there’s more. Anecdotally, the Guardian’s Zoë Williams complains of inappropriate behaviour on the wards and the Observer asks: Exactly what is it that you nurses are so angry about?

The answer appears to be ‘nothing unusual’. Wages have risen, as they needed to, but productivity hasn’t. That’s partly because nurses were working just as hard when lower paid. The NHS is going through reform and reorganisation. It’s stressful, but few of us manage a life without change. As working practices alter, some jobs become redundant and others are created. Fortunately, it seems unlikely that those affected will be unable to find another NHS job.

All of which suggests a culture in which health workers, rather than patients, are put first. They won’t like it, they’ll stamp their feet and jeer at ministers… but change they must.

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