The extra mile

Being my turn this week I thought what can I write about? Schools on holiday, Parliaments in recess. Just leaves local election campaigns and believe me you don’t want me to go there!

Then I looked at today’s newspaper. Another cash cow in the public system, halted by the SNP and wanted to be reinstated by a professional body. I had absolutely no idea that health service consultant doctors were being given a performance bonus of up to £75,000 per year.

I am not a total innocent in the health care world. In a previous life I was a nurse. I sort of drifted into this career. Left school with no idea what I wanted except that I did not want to go to university. A school friend going into nursing suggested I take a summer job at a local hospital as a nursing auxiliary. I did. I enjoyed it and applied for a full time job while I applied to train.

As anyone who chose the same path will know, it is hard work, challenging but generally a satisfying job. As always, it’s the politics that cheeses you off.

In my innocence I had assumed that doctors did the same. Part of my nursing life was spent in anaesthetics and theatre. In those days the consultants were usually at home in the evenings and weekends. Senior registrars and registrars were pretty reluctant to have to call them in unless they really were in difficulty. I was totally shocked to read in the newspaper today that there was a possibility that they had been earning a bonus for simply doing their job. The president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons Glasgow stated ” The SNP saw these as banker’s bonuses for doctors and scrapped them, so there is no incentive to go the extra mile in the NHS in Scotland”

I nearly bust a gasket at that one. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot of studying and hands on learning to become a doctor. Since my day many of their jobs have been taken over by nurses so they no longer have the menial tasks to do. Having lived in that world it did seem to be a case of ‘I have got there, now you need to reward me’. The nurses and junior doctors were the ones that were head down, working more than ‘the safe shift’ hours. I did hear comments like ‘can’t phone in the boss, he’ll be on the golf course/at a family event/on a night out. The boss was the on call consultant and there should have been no hesitation in calling him in. I used to babysit for the local vet and was always give the phone number of where they were (before mobile phones!) if a call came in for him to attend an animal. Why should a human be less urgent? Everyone should be going the extra mile in their work.

In this day and age it is high time we took the public school attitude out of the workplace. The NHS is not the only place. All of the old professions have this lurking in their approach to the workplace. As people join these professions from backgrounds that were once barred, it is to be hoped this will change. The old boy network has till recently kept these new people in their place but as the number of non public school professionals continue to increase, the chances of the old guard being challenged also increases. The workplace should be a healthy, happy place where, if there have to be bonuses, they are awarded on skill. Ideally there should be no need for bonuses, tips etc, Everyone should have a living wage. The skill, extra training etc should be reflected in your salary not in secret deals behind closed doors.

Before anyone comments, I know I live in an idealised world in my head. It doesn’t mean that it could not be reality if we chose it.

“Latest figures show health boards spent £71m last year paying distinction awards to about 200 consultants. Meanwhile, discressionary points held by some 2,800 consultants, totalled £34.5m” How much healthcare would that buy?


  1. Excellent article, Margaret. The SNP should stand its ground on this and similar issues. As Scotland’s distance from the old order slowly widens there is an awful lot still to be done – and undone – in order to bring our nation up to the global standards of the 21st century.

    I come of a half-medical parentage, and I have one hospital physician and four nurses among my closest relatives, so I get feedback and am not unaware of the situation. I also have extensive recent personal experience of a model national health service, obviously not in the UK.

    The SNP is learning over time, and its performance on domestic issues like this, although not flawless, has been far better that could ever have been expected of a party that had never in its previous existence held government office.

    I will continue to give credit where it is due, but if only the SNP knew what it is talking about on foreign policy and international diplomacy I would be much happier and a bit less apprehensive . . .

  2. I’d be interested in James Wilkie’s concerns over foreign policy and international diplomacy. Not a Boris Johnson amongst them perhaps?

  3. At one time, women were barred from becoming doctors. Once allowed to become doctors, it took a while for them to start entering medicine in droves. Many of the first women doctors in the 80s were worse to their women patients than the men; many thought they had to behave with as much indifference, if not more, to be just like their male counterparts. Thank heaven that did not continue as there grew more and more of a female presence in the hallowed halls of medicine. The “men’s club” mentality was broken.

    Hold fast. The will happen. There might be a bit of kicking and screaming from the old guard, but ya canna change the laws of change.

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