TAG | Health
During the 2010 General Election, I campaigned to scrap unfair, ‘lifetime’ bonuses within NHS Tayside. I welcome the widening of the campaign to end the bonus culture within the NHS.
The Merit and Distinction awards are only available to the highest paid NHS staff, consultants, as part of their standard contract. Shockingly, these are not one-off bonuses, but are added to consultants’ salaries, year after year, until they retire. The NHS even increases their pension contributions accordingly.
It is expected that between 1/3 and 1/2 consultants will receive one of these bonuses during their career, worth up to £70,000 per year on top of their normal salary. No such bonuses are available to other vital NHS staff such and nurses, junior doctors, cleaners or porters. This is completely unfair and unjustified.
I am therefore delighted that the campaign is gaining wider support and the pressure continues to be applied.
Tavish Scott MSP, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, recently called for an end to consultant bonuses, saying:
“The [Scottish] Health Secretary is responsible for awarding £30 million of bonuses to the most highly paid personnel in the NHS – consultants.
“The payment of these bonuses is a totally devolved issue. There should be no payouts next year. People will find it an odd priority for the SNP to pay out £30 million in bonuses to those who are already the highest paid, while nurses are losing their jobs.”
Meanwhile, the issue is also creating waves in England, with a BBC investigation finding that a loophole means the bonuses continue to be paid, even when the consultants perform poorly:
Professor Alan Maynard, an expert in health policy at York University, was chairman of a local NHS trust for 12 years during which time he sat on the committee that handed out the awards. He said:
“They never get stopped, once they have them they have them for their lifetime. The system needs completely changing.
“The applicants provide very little information, but you can’t spend the money on anything else as it is earmarked for these awards. I would have preferred to spend it on providing more care.”
He said the evidence for performance-related pay was questionable anyway, but if there was to be an incentives scheme it should be much tougher.
Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, agreed, saying:
“I think they are out of step with how the NHS should be paying staff. They should be abolished.”
With alcohol death rates having doubled in a generation, it is vital that we all take a more responsible attitude towards alchohol. That is is why I am supporting Alcohol Awareness Week Scotland, which is running this week between 4th and 10th October.
Alcohol abuse can have a devastating effect on families. Heavy drinking at home by parents is accepted as “normal behaviour” by children and repeats the cycle of alcohol abuse.
As I noted in my post earlier this year, alcohol abuse is linked to severe neglect and abuse of children in our country:
In fact, charity Turning Point, claimed last year that 1.3 million children across the UK are living with parents who misuse alcohol. Far from being a “mystique”, alcohol is a regular part of these children’s lives, disrupting their families, and leaving them exposed to rage, violence and neglect. This has been shown to create a negative self image amongst children, increase levels of depression and truancy, and affect their attainment at school and later in life. These children are growing up thinking that heavy drinking is normal behaviour.
Please support this campaign. And Make Family Time Count by drinking responsibly.
NHS Tayside should provide detailed information about bonuses paid to high earners in the NHS. My family are able to use the services provided by NHS Tayside but it is clear to me that budgets are under pressure. Concerns have been expressed to me by people in Angus about their local service provision.
It seems there is a breakdown in the relationship between GPs and the Angus Community Health Partnership over the consultation process on hospital provision in North Angus. Residents are concerned about the loss of GP beds at Brechin and Montrose infirmaries. Worries about future hospital provision are centred on budgets.
For example, in Montrose, the replacement for the maternity unit has been put on hold. Another worry centres on Arbroath: the date has still to be indicated for the new car park at Arbroath Infirmary, and given the budgetary pressures, there are concerns that this might be delayed.
There have quite rightly been complaints about the bonuses paid to bankers. However it is also increasingly evident that a bonus system exists for consultants in the NHS. I have written to Professor Tony Wells of NHS Tayside, asking him to provide the public in Angus with detailed information about the system. I have put the following questions to the Chief Executive:
1. What is the justification for the Merit Awards / Discretionary payments (i.e bonus system) in NHS Tayside?
2. Can doctors nominate themselves for awards?
3. Who judges whether or not someone gets an award?
4. At what level of job are these awards given? Is it only consultants and above?
5. How much is an award worth?
6. What is the difference between the merit and the discretionary award?
7. Are these one-off awards or are they a permanent addition to salary?
8. What effect does an award have on the recipient’s pension?
9. What is the hourly rate of pay for out-of-hours doctors?
With threats to NHS budgets due to the recession, it is vital that we ensure that salaries and bonuses within the NHS are fair and open at all pay levels, from nurses and administrators, through to consultants and surgeons.
I am calling on the Scottish Government to follow through on its fitness manifesto and help to finance a new swimming pool for Forfar.
I visited Forfar’s current swimming pool with local independent Councillor, Colin Brown and met with the staff at the pool. I was very impressed with Forfar’s swimming pool and have heard excellent reports of the service given by staff. The existing pool offers the best facilities it can, given the age and size of the current building.
However, it is clear that the pool cannot meet the needs of all Forfar residents going forward, including the youngest in the community. As a father of a four year old, I myself know how important it is to allow toddlers to get confident around water by making learning to swim fun. Forfar families could really do with a pool tailored specifically for their kids’ needs.
A new facility would allow young and old, fitness fanatics and leisure swimmers alike, to go swimming together. Pools can be an excellent meeting place for the whole community.
Angus Council is aware of the need for a new pool in the town. However, with the council’s allocation from central government set to be slashed, the Scottish SNP Government needs to follow through on its fitness manifesto and invest in health at the heart of Angus and Forfar.