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article imageOp-Ed: Nurses take pay cuts as bosses waste billions

By Alexander Baron     Sep 23, 2011 in Health
Reading - Yesterday, one tabloid reported the Government is set to axe a £12 billion health service computer system; today, British nurses are told they must take a pay cut or face redundancy.
When that bloke coined the phrase “You couldn’t make it up” he couldn’t have realised just how much of an understatement he was making. Yesterday, the Daily Express claimed the computer system the previous Labour Government had commissioned for the National Health Service was set to be scrapped. The figure given for this failed exercise is £12 billion. Okay, caveat emptor when reading any tabloid newspaper, but if the core facts are true, that this system was ten years in the planning and making, scrapping it must indeed make it arguably the most expensive white elephant of the Blair/Brown years, apart from the war in Iraq, of course, but don’t let’s even go there.
The reason(s) for its being scrapped are not clear, but it has to be said that not everyone was happy with the idea of creating a national database of patients’ records which could be accessed by any fairly low level NHS employee with a password. The civil liberties issues are considerable, especially in the wake of the recent and ongoing phone hack scandal. Imagine the outcry if the medical records of some A List actor or world famous musician were accessed illegally, and details of his treatment for sexual or mental health problems were sold to the highest bidder. On second thoughts, don’t.
While the Coalition Government is mothballing a multi-billion pound project that probably ought never to have been set up in the first place, the people at the heart of the NHS, nurses, are being told they must take a pay cut.
Nurses at one hospital in Berkshire have been told a £600 pay supplement is to be axed. The Royal Berkshire is one of the largest in the country. Currently it has over 4,800 staff and says that on a typical day there will be 16 babies born and 106 emergency admissions.
A letter has been sent to 1,736 of these staff telling them if they don’t agree to “lose” this allowance, they face dismissal. There appears to have been no mention so far of the legality or otherwise of this drastic measure, but a little arithmetic shows that for the money that was squandered on the aforementioned computer system, these 1,736 nurses could have been paid this bonus for the next 11,520 years.
Alas, this is far from a parochial story, for example, in California nurses have organised a 3 day strike in protest at proposed cuts in retirement and other benefits; at one hospital the slogans “Community Care, Not Corporate Profits,” and “Some Cuts Don't Heal” have been used. It’s a pity that governments worldwide don’t seem to appreciate that.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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