Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, briefly stole the headlines last week when he condemned the Government for its Brexit incompetence.
Unison warned last year that the public sector as a whole hovered on the brink of this crisis.
Amongst the litany of failings behind the baby deaths at the scandal-hit Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (along with a constant fear of being blamed when things went wrong) was a dangerous shortages of midwives and doctors.
Yet it turns out that nearly a quarter of student nurses drop out of their degree courses before they graduate. It is not so surprising since the State has killed nursing as a career by degrees. Far from raising nurses’ status, it’s diminished their authority, lessened the respect they are held in and therefore job satisfaction.
Meanwhile the education establishment, or ‘the Blob’, which has been running nurse training in our universities for several years now, has proved very successful in defending all its own jobs and nursing professorships.
Nor is the 6,000 GP ‘shortage’ an issue the government wants to address, or ask ‘why’ about, or about the doctor shortages across all sectors and what’s making the NHS such an unattractive place to work.
Apart from a management culture that has made medicine impersonal and unaccountable, the other great change ministers might look at is the feminisation of the work force. Women comprise more than three-quarters of all NHS staff, and there are more female than male doctors. Until the Sixties fewer than 10 per cent were female, but for the past four decades about 60 per cent of students selected for training in UK medical schools have been female. This hasn’t just created serious workforce (inefficiency) problems but has considerable implications for the way the NHS works and for the ethos of doctors.
The influx of women, with their feminist family-friendly demands, has turned a full-time workforce into a part-time one, full-time commitment into part-time commitment. ‘Female family-friendly’ is not necessarily patient-friendly. Today’s average GP works a three-and-a-half day week, at a time when the NHS is dealing with at least 10 per cent more patients. The problem is that it has affected male doctors’ work ethic too. More and more are moonlighting, taking up well-paid locum and agency work. Anywhere else this would be called out for what it is – gaming the system. It’s a rotten basis for decent teamwork, responsibility and real commitment.
The contagion has spread to students – only one in 20 trainee doctors intends to work full time. This marks a total collapse in what was once regarded as a public duty in return for training and the granting of a desired profession.
Education is much the same. Women make up four-fifths of the education work force today. Some 70 per cent of teachers are female and at primary level, this rises to 82.4 per cent, a proportion that is steadily increasing. The feminised work force and part-time work culture has contributed to the teaching recruitment crisis.
2016 marked a new low in teacher entry and that year’s analysis found that teachers were leaving, after just three years, faster than ever. Why wouldn’t they? How many women want to work only with women? For young women the all-female environment is no place to find a boyfriend, let alone a husband. Why would any man want to be the lone male in the staff room?
Part-time work is getting ever more popular too, we’re told. It’s encouraged, what’s more, despite the problems it causes schools (to say nothing of pupils and parents). Cash incentives for ‘flexible’ working schools are in the interests of the staff, not the children they teach. Elsewhere it’s called producer capture.
With teachers working the system, no wonder respect for the profession has diminished. No wonder if schools are less cohesive and less happy places to work.
It’s notable that in the private education sector the proportion of men teaching is significantly higher. Perhaps this is because of the greater commitment demanded of them. Unsurprisingly the national teacher shortage has not impacted on them.
Less ideological and more responsible government would learn from the NHS and education exodus. Instead it continues to prioritise female recruitment to the Army, the police and the fire service without consideration of the inefficiencies, the impact on ethos, or whether feminised environments are ones that even women want to work in.
It’s about time the government addressed the real public sector gender imbalance problem – that women outnumber men by three to one. If anyone needs protected status under the Equalities Act, it is men.
Were Government not so painfully and blindly PC, it’d see male recruitment drives and male advancement are needed to make the various services more efficient and rewarding places to work.
As for public sector female bosses such as the London Fire Brigade boss Dany Cotton, heaven help us. Her great contribution to recruitment is to try to ban the term ‘fireman’ from the lexicon and replace it with gender-neutral ‘firefighter’.
If the public sector exodus is to be reversed, then the gender debate must be too.