Headlines: September 15th, 2004

Public confusion over the level of bureaucracy in the National Health Service has been highlighted in an ICM poll, commissioned jointly by UNISON and the NHS Confederation. It shows people believe only half of staff are directly involved in patient care when the real figure is 84 per cent.

The union and the confederation say gross exaggeration and political criticism have created the reality gap in people’s minds over the number of support staff employed in the health service. A similar poll earlier this year found that more than half of those questioned believed managers made up more than a fifth of the NHS workforce, when in reality they account for only 4 per cent staff.

The two organisations have published a new report, ‘Completing the Picture’ to explain the roles and responsibilities of managers and support staff. It is based on real-life profiles of staff from chief executives to ward clerks, and shows the contribution they make to the health service and to the quality of care for patients.

NHS Confederation chief executive, Dr Gill Morgan said claims that the NHS was awash with “pen-pushers” were not only misleading the public but were damaging the morale of hard-working staff. “We are launching a campaign to say enough is enough. It is time to end the bureaucrat bashing and to look at the real people whose jobs make a real difference to patients,” Dr Morgan said.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary said no one wanted to see nurses and doctors wasting valuable time and training tied up with paperwork instead of being out on the wards looking after patients. An organisation the size of the NHS, which treated millions of patients a year, had to have effective managerial, clerical and administrative staff.

“Sadly it seems to be the hunting season for Labour and the Tories as they try to out-tough each other over the number of support jobs they will cut in the NHS, ignoring the fact these are real jobs, done by real people with real benefits to patients,” he added.