Long enough

There are a lot of things I don’t know and even more that I can’t do.

I’m not a grave-digger but I do recognise a six foot hole when I see one.

I’m not a racing driver but I know what a Ferrari is.

I’m not a hairdresser but I can see, from the state of some bloke’s beards… they’re grown out of unadulterated slobiness and not in the quest for tonsorial elegance.

Neither, am I a lawyer nor an MP but I do know a piece of Lassie-legislation when I see it… a dog’s breakfast.

In case you haven’t noticed the Whitehall gas-works has churned out another masterpiece…

… it’s the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023.

Panicked by the tabloids about strikes in the NHS, Rishi had a choice; fix industrial relations or antagonise everyone with another piece of senseless union bashing.

You know what he chose. Labour are pledged to repeal it… we’ll see… because…

… most European countries have some some sort of minimum service agreements in an attempt to balance the right-to-strike and the rights of their citizens to go about their business…

… I bet they don’t.

Do we actually need this legislation in the NHS?

Medics and clinicians are generally only allowed to practice if they are admitted to their professional register.

Principally the NMC and the GMC (and others). For the most part the conditions include some form of undertaking not to harm the public.

It all falls apart when registrants go on strike.

Both organisations claim to protect the public. They don’t.

The NMC code of conduct ducks strikes and hides behind waffle in their ‘position papers’. The GMC dither-on about ‘using judgement’.

They are no help.

To keep services ticking over during strikes Trades Unions, stuck-in-a-bind between wooing public sympathy and not killing them, agree derogations.

Meaning striking members can actually work as normal. That’s what Xmas Day levels of service are all about.

Apart from recycling about a million people back onto the waiting lists and goodness knows what damage that does, the strike days, touch wood, have been grief-free.

People have been sensible.

The top-line of the new legislation… principally, Trusts are provided with the power to require some staff to keep working. They don’t have to use the legislation…

… it’s their call.

The staff who are required to work have to be named, listed and the information provided to the Unions… even if they don’t belong to the union.

Quite what that does to data protection is above my pay-grade.

Unions must give employers 14 days notice of striking. The employers have 7 days to provide a ‘work notice’… the list, that in a big trust will run into hundreds. There are a further four days to amend the list and fiddle about.

If a named person decides to strike anyway, they run the risk of no longer being protected by strike legislation and might end up with the sack. If the Unions don’t comply, they can be fined a shed-load of money.

That’s it, in a nutshell.

Trusts have a problem. They hold contracts of employment but have no control over pay.

They can’t negotiate an end to strikes, they just have to deal with the fall-out and the aggravation that the numpties at the DH+ give them.

Trust’s professional bodies the Confed and Providers, are as influential as a box of fortune cookies and no one is going to give the junior doctors a 35% pay rise.

Trusts are stuck, and …

… the last thing Trusts want is the aggravation of strike action to sour local relationships.

People have to work with each other when the strikes are over… hence, by-and-large the derogations have been sorted out by grown-ups and things have muddled along.

NHS management is getting quite good at ‘doing strikes’ and the growing waiting lists are Rishi’s problem.

Unions are bound to want to test this new legislation through the courts. I cannot envisage a Trust wanting to make matters worse by invoking their new powers …

… unless they are in the thrall of some steerry-eyed, bonkers NEDs who can’t be reigned in.

Like I said, I’m not a lawyer and I no longer have to make operational decisions but I do know when a barge-pole isn’t long enough…

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