At times I have the bad habit of letting my heart overwhelm my head. I am well aware that the
National Health Service will be seventy years old on the fifth of July and,
indeed, I remember the sixtieth ten years ago. I attended a special event at UK where I received a medal
from the Lord Mayor, Susanna Pressel (She was my teacher at school and she
totally failed to recognize me. I didn't feel inclined to remind her). The
seventieth anniversary is going to be a far more glitzy showbiz event than the
sixty-year mark and I don't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed that
I will not be taking part. Prince William has given a very passionate speech
about the NHS and its servicemen, see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44102318.
A number of servicemen will be singled out for special recognition, but the
prince made sure to point out the "inspirational skill, care and
dedication" of everybody in the NHS. The tinseltown nature of the upcoming
gala is going to need a separate review, but ITV and the Daily Mirror are hosting the celebrations. I must not allow myself
to be star-struck into irrationality. Probably the pageant will be intended to
have that very effect on the viewer. Will we be given even a hint of the truth?
This seventieth birthday of the NHS will actually be a deathbed gathering, or
maybe even a wake. See here for more details: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.com/2014/07/allyson-pollock-at-tedx.html. Oxford
Thursday, 31 May 2018
On behalf of every serving hospital porter, every former hospital porter, and everybody else who loves, appreciates and supports us, with all the Pride and Dignity of my Extremely Proud and Dignified Brother and Sister Porters, I'd like to wish all my friends and readers, a very happy St Theo's Day. Sorry it's a day early, but I'll be away on St Theo's Day itself, the first of June. Here is my HPANWO TV video for St Theo's this year: (coming soon)
Saturday, 19 May 2018
The fliers for this year's St Theo's Day are finished. Pretty soon I shall print and distribute them. This year, as with last year, I have produced two different fliers, one for the Oxfordshire hospitals on my doorstep; and another to be distributed to other institutions around the country. I will send the second national flier by post, addressed to the porters in those institutions. Apologies for the long delay between St Theo's Day 2018 and the St Theo's Day 2018 official get-together. This is due to staff availability.
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
A new pay deal from the government has been announced that appears to be one of the most generous in the seventy year history of the National Health Service. If NHS servicemen agree to it, which they almost certainly will, it will see an average basic grade porter's income rise by 15% to above £18,000 pa. Some staff will receive 29%. The payrise will be backdated to this month if they agree by the summer. Despite the title I've given this article, porters are only some of the beneficiaries. The deal will improve the salaries of the lowest earners in the NHS most of all; porters, cleaners, nursing auxiliaries and junior nurses. However even higher paid staff, such as nursing sisters, will gain 6.5%. The rise will not be an instant handout; it is going to be spread over three years. The health unions are very much behind it but the GMB has voiced a note of pessimism. This payrise does not make up for the massive blow caused by the "Austerity crush" in the late 2000's that saw five or more years of frozen pay. That's true, but it is a step in the right direction. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43481341. When I first heard about this, I thought it sounded too good to be true. Indeed many other similar situations have emerged in which apparently generous payrises have been offered, but only in exchange for a massive increase in workload and difficult new roles added to job descriptions. For example, maternity midwifery auxiliaries were originally on Band 1 of the Agenda for Change pay reshuffle. Their duties were simple tasks like making beds and blanket-bathing adult patients. They were then offered Band 2, the same as a basic grade porter; but they had to agree to taking on additional duties previously only carried out by qualified midwives on a far higher salary. This is called being "labour intensive"; that's Orwell-speak for getting the lowest paid personnel in your organization to do the most amount of work. However, this new pay deal appears not to have any of these strings attached; and, believe me, I was on my guard against them. Is this really too good to be true? It's out of my hands now; I shall just have to wait and see.
See here for background: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/hospital-porters-and-nhs-strike.html.
Monday, 22 January 2018
See here for essential background: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/carillion-collapse.html.
Carillion plc has often been described as "one of the biggest companies in the world that you've never heard of". Today everybody knows its name. The negotiations of the last few weeks have failed to come up with a rescue package and so Carillion is officially in liquidation. On the morning of January the 15th it issued an administration notice to the
stock exchange and all its asset holders have been notified. Two other companies
in the construction sector, Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try, have been given
extra cash contributions to complete the highway projects Carillion were
carrying out. The costs so far are about thirty-five million pounds. I image
the same deal will be organized for the support services it is involved in,
such as the Facilities management at NHS hospitals. Carillion employees are
still being paid. Yesterday I saw a Carillion van parked outside a student
accommodation block under construction. I have heard from an informant inside
JR Portering that their management are still on site until at least the 16th of
February; after that, nobody knows. Obviously this situation cannot last. Probably
there will be a bigger feeding frenzy as other contractors swoop down like
vultures to feed off the Carillion carcass. This is not ideal. As I suggested,
it would have been nice if the government had given smaller businesses a chance;
but this is way better than a bailout. This affair is also going to throw the
entire PFI ethos into question. Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May some searching
questions about the whole business at Prime Minister's Question Time. He did
not mention the fact that PFI is the brainchild of a Labour government, not the
Tories. The government has established a "Carillion task force" which
includes representatives of business, construction experts, trade unions,
financial services and the state. We will have to wait until they've been
through a tedious and lengthy process of umm-ing and ahh-ing before they
eventually publish a coherent report. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42687032#.
The best analysis of the Carillion collapse has come from Ian R Crane who
explains how people were lured into buying Carillion stock options that were
not as lucrative as they pretended. In this way the entire operation was a
bubble and it has now burst and left many people who trusted advisers with their investment
totally penniless. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4wJ6lFMc4g.
See here for more information: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/man-falls-to-his-death-at-jr.html.http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/jr-porters-strike-update-2.html.
Sunday, 14 January 2018
Carillion plc was founded in 1999 at just the right time. It rode the grand ascending surf of PFI- private finance initiatives brought in by Tony Blair's Labour government as they tried to become an extremist caricature of the Conservatives they had defeated in the election two years earlier. Carillion is primarily a construction and civil engineering contractor, but it also provides management for the facilities it builds. It has thrown up many grand edifices all over the world, from a motor racing circuit in
to a hotel in Abu Dhabi. In the
2000's it was brought in by the UK government to build the newest and most
ambitious phase of my old hospital, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, see:
As part of the deal, it took over management of the entire Facilities
department; domestics, catering and, of course, portering. None of us were ever
employed directly by Carillion; we retained our NHS positions, but we were
completely under their control. In the background links I provide details of that
period of my portering life and give you an idea about what it was like.
Last year it was revealed that all was not well at the mill. The share price of Carillion plc plunged in a steady spiraling slope broken by two catastrophic dips. They started the New Year by dropping a 1.5 billion pound debt bomb. Some financial commentators claim that the firm has simply overstretched itself, gambling on too many difficult licenses that turned out not to be profitable. It has also suffered delayed payments from some of its jobs in the
East. It also has a 600 million pound pension deficit that will
not affect me personally, luckily; but it will cause problems for many of its
twenty thousand employees, mostly skilled men in the building trades. The big
fear comes from the fact that Carillion is now so integrated into public
services that those very services would be threatened by the company's
bankruptcy. As I said the other day, it's a network, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/bransons-nhs-billion.html.
The NHS, prisons, railways, the armed forces, highway maintenance and education
could all be seriously hampered by the shutting down of Carillion. It might
also delay the construction of the high speed railway "HS2"; a good
job I say, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/stonehenge-tunnel.html.
This quandary could be solved by a bailout. Sir Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat
leader, has urged the government not to bail out Carillion. What he says is the
perfect illustration of the stupidity of PFI. It is essentially the
privatization of profits together with the nationalization of losses. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42666275,
I recommend that the company be allowed to tank, and then the government can
repossess its assets as collateral. This would include everything it has built
at the John Radcliffe, all eight hundred million pounds worth of the neurological
centre, the new eye hospital, the children's hospital and everything else. It
should be the perfect opportunity to relieve itself of the ridiculous loan
system by which Carillion built the place and then the government bought it
back at 33% APR, a rate of interest that would be... somewhat uncompetitive...
if it were offered by any high street bank. The government could easily provide
its own management, indeed there is a massive untapped source of skill and
experience within the portering community itself. Some of the senior porters
could act up for a while until the situation settles down and permanent posts
can be filled. Maybe this will make the government think again about the supposed
wisdom of the PFI system. If they absolutely insist on privatization as a deep-seated cultural
and emotional principle, privatization for privatization's sake alone; then why
not let the services set up their own small outfits and bid for the contract themselves?
This was an idea I explored when I was a porter, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2007/09/copy-of-my-jrhpc-letter.html.
See here for more information: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/man-falls-to-his-death-at-jr.html.
Friday, 12 January 2018
When I was a hospital porter we used to joke about "Virgin Health". It was an exaggeration at the time; we never imagined that truth would eventually catch up with our jest. Richard Branson's Virgin Care company has just earned the biggest haul of privatization licenses ever seen in the NHS. Over four hundred separate contracts now belong to Branson's empire. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/29/richard-branson-virgin-scoops-1bn-pounds-of-nhs-contracts. It's interesting that the article uses the word "dysfunctional" to describe the privatization procurement process. Why does it not simply say "corrupt"? The theory behind NHS privatization and the reality of its effects are separated by so vast a gulf that it makes me despair that so few people are talking about it. It was a strategy just beginning when I joined the NHS. A year into my service the porters were contracted out to a company called ISS Mediclean, an outfit that was already running the domestics there. There was a tendering period where several firms put in bids to run the portering service and the privatization committee "gave it their consideration." During this period we noticed that the Facilities director seemed to be spending a lot of his time in the company of the local Mediclean manager. They took their lunch breaks together etc. We knew then what was really going on and when Mediclean won the porters contract we were not surprised. We later found out that the Facilities manager was given a "finders fee" by somebody behind the scenes, a shareholder we imagine; which is just a euphemism for "bribe" as far as I'm concerned. Of course it's all legal and above board... which is what is so frightening about it. Through the decade Mediclean ran the porters, quality of service fell through the floor. I watched it happen; unable to do anything to stop it. We've never completely recovered from that Dark Age. No matter how many bad reports the monitoring officer, a former senior porter, submitted to the trust management nothing was done. Under Blair's Labour government privatisation accelerated past the point of no return and now the entire NHS is basically nothing more than a network of these tin pot contractors supported by another network of robotic and amoral bureaucrats. The only competition in the NHS is who is willing to grease the backhanded palm of the correct regulator the quickest with the crispest unmarked banknotes. Sorry to start 2018 with news that is so pessimistic and black pilling, but these are merely the facts. RIP the National Health Service.
See here for background: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/national-health-singers-yours.html.