(Could you be a whistleblower? Write to us in confidence at The Conservative Woman: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ever thought about working in the NHS? There’s a job going for a Communications Manager in Central London for the Healthy London Partnership. As was explained previously in The Conservative Woman, many people waste time applying for public sector jobs that have already been allocated. However, a study of this ad on the NHS jobs site gives some insight into the public sector ethos.
To understand the advert, you have to speak Engagement, the NHS dialect of the public sector mandarin’s own slanguage, which seems designed to exclude outsiders.
The 11-page job description is packed with baffling doublespeak. The uninitiated job seeker will spend hours worrying how they can prove they are ‘patient centric’ and passionate about outcomes. There are 20 different stakeholder groups with whom you must maintain close relationships. And 29 different types of talent that must be demonstrated. At a guess, I’d say this is physically impossible to achieve in a 37 and a half hour week. Yes, even if you do work though your lunch break and don’t attend training courses, seminars, fact finding trips, trade events, team building away days and diversity awareness shindigs. In which case, the job description is meaningless. Outsiders won’t know this. Only insiders will know these phrases are like pensioners begging for water on a trolley in a hospital corridor – they’re so over used they don’t count for anything any more. They can be ignored.
The job description covers everything and ultimately nothing. You will be doing everything from ‘ensuring Londoners are engaged’ through ‘inspiring confidence and partnership’ to ‘promoting the reputation of Healthy London Partnership’. Together these soundbites form a cloud of intangibles that are both mesmerising and impossible to pin down.
An NHS job ad is, in medical microbiology terms, like a cross fertilisation of two malignant forms – in this case it’s the combination of legislation and inflation. The resulting hybrid – let’s call it legisflation – creates a mass of rules, which can be applied any way the administration wants them to.
Who decides whether a candidate has proved their ability to “work with ambiguity in a changing environment”? The HR recruiter, that’s who, and they can interpret these intangibles any way they want, in order to give the job to precisely the sort of person they’d want to socialise with.
The logic of the job spec isn’t consistent anyway. If good written communication is important (as specified) why is the recruiter guilty of constant cliché repetition? Variants of the word “transform” appear 13 times in a single paragraph. Anyone who can tolerate this is clearly not “passionate” about communicating ‘engagingly’.
For most applicants, I fear, this will be a complete waste of time. For the recruiter, there are possible spin offs. Beside revelling in the power of making people jump through admin hoops, HR managers can harvest a lucrative database of email addresses and personal information. This has massive value, and could be sold, stolen or just put on the wrong motor bike and lost at some future date.
The post holder will be reporting to the “Programme Director of Devolution”. Who’d have thought devolution was important to hospitals? It must be important, because the opportunity cost of a Programme Director’s salary is worth four nurse’s jobs!
If they got rid of all these Programme Directors and Engagement spinners, would the NHS collapse? Hospitals all seem to tick along nicely without them on the weekends. You wonder how much extra money could become available for the staff that really are ‘patient facing’. I suspect many would want their taxes going to those who really do work anti-social hours while being sociable to a diversity of human capital in the ‘accident and emergency place’.
The successful candidate will enjoy higher pay than a junior doctor for working half the hours of their much better qualified colleagues. Which is odd, given that they’ll have sacrificed a fraction of the hard study years a doctor or nurse puts in. On that score, it’s easy to understand why a junior doctor might be disgruntled. The ten billion pounds Blair wasted on a failed National Programme for IT must be sickening too. Another grisly “outcome” was John Prescott’s diversion of more billions from NHS funds into the bank accounts of private finance initiative companies.
Those are two outrages where the government of the day could have been accused of trying to destroy the NHS. How come nobody opened a can of hashtag over these national scandals? Do you remember any striking NHS staff going on TV saying that it’s their duty to ‘hold this government to account’? Interestingly, that phrase doesn’t appear anywhere in any of the NHS job descriptions.