The minimum Wage and Care

I read Roy Lilley’s “almost” daily postings on the Health Service avidly.  There is so much I agree with and sometimes his writing is profoundly moving.  But …..

I have to take issue with his article on care and the minimum wage.  Don’t get me wrong I think paying minimum wage to the people who look after our loved ones (while a former Home Secretary asks for £5000 a day) is bordering on the criminal.  I also think the people who express indignation at the iniquities of Health and Social Care but at the same time think tax cutting is a moral necessity need to wake up and smell the bedpan.

However there are many people in the care sector who provide commitment, professionalism and not a little love for £6.60 an hour.  Yes, if you paid a realistic wage of £14 or £15 an hour there would be more of them but equally there would be plenty of people earning that much who would treat their residents, workers, patients or whatever like the contents of the aforementioned bedpan.

Increasing wages is vital, but is will not work unless the management of these services undergoes a radical overhaul.  When a culture of hiding behind job descriptions, avoiding responsibility and incessant moaning saps the positivity of even the most witless optimist, the outcome is obvious.

Politicians and the media share some responsibility for this state of affairs, but that’s another area that I have no idea how to change.  To be honest we need to have professions like these so that we have somewhere to put the idiots, so we can keep an eye on what they are up to!

What I do know how to change is the management of people and that’s where we should start.  Don’t suck people into large monolithic organisations where managers are forced to spend much of their time playing politics and day to day management is hived off to the dreaded “HR” department.  Match local delivery to local needs and encourage staff to make their bit of the Health Service better.

I’m reminded of a story about John F Kennedy walking round NASA in the 1960s.  He came across someone who was sweeping up rubbish and was obviously a cleaner.  He asked him what his job was and the answer came back “I’m helping to put a man on the moon”.  The story may not be true, but the message is valid.

The receptionist in your GP surgery is helping you have a healthier life – shouldn’t their manager tell them so, and shouldn’t we all cut them a little slack?

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