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Worst yet to come?15th of October 2010
As the new coalition government unveils its programme of spending cuts, the UK reporter for ECJ considers how they may affect the cleaning sector.
As the ‘cuts’ or the threat of cuts hover over us, we have a plethora of protestations regarding the damage the policies might do. Most of these come from people who helped to create the problems in the first place or waxed rich on the previous government’s blind largesse.
However the clarion call “We’re all in this together” has yet to be universally accepted even if the view that stringent measures are necessary does hold majority acceptance despite frenzied efforts to undermine the resolve.
The trades unions threaten or hold strike action, which does nothing for the membership but exposes a staggering paucity of thought.
And still reality is not accepted. The National Health Service (NHS) claims to be making cuts and the insistence of ministers remains that their funds are ‘ring-fenced’. Does ring-fencing mean you can carry on in the same old way inside this fence? By chance last week I visited a hospital and while waiting for an out-patient went to the cafeteria to partake of coffee. At 3pm it was closed for cleaning and one had the opportunity carefully to observe this operation. It was extraordinarily poor in execution, and in the time taken to fulfil the tasks of dust sweeping and damp mopping.
The job could have been completed successfully in far less time with one fewer operative. This is not to say the operatives did not work hard but a little management skill could have made it easier and quicker. There was no sign of management or supervision. Savings in this small area taken across the hospital as a whole would save a considerable amount.
Cleaning is a vital part of the day to day operations of the NHS, the enormous organisation which is trumpeted as a success but in many respects falls far short of the ideal. Occasionally the curtain is raised to reveal a state of affairs which ought not be tolerated. Enquiries no doubt find that "lessons must be learned". It is a pity they are not learned earlier.
At the ‘coalface’ the workers do a good job though it could be done so much better with the application of better management skills. The NHS has become a ‘sacred cow’ on which votes depend but no one should delude themselves. It is bureaucratic, management-overloaded, seldom if ever acknowledges its faults and is visibly inefficient. “No country in the world has anything like it.” Have you ever wondered why?
On all sides there is concern about cuts and job losses. The media feeds on a diet of whining or presents a false picture of people suffering and now hints with relish at civil disobedience. Frankly we have little idea of what ‘suffering’ means.
In local authorities and some other areas there is talk of little else but reductions in funding and the lack of it. Sixty years of 'the State will supply’ has apparently left us almost bereft of the ability to think, create and act. In former times funding was found from the rich and the public. The one thing they both have in common today is that they are taxed so much there is little surplus left after one has bought the BlackBerry or Xbox or flat screen television.