You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I considered what the best job in the world might be, and decided that being in the employ of a James Bond villain would be number one on the list.

Well, I’ve changed my mind.

I’d like to be a consultant at NHS Lothian, please.

If you or I had finished a good 12 hour shift, then we could go home satisfied at a job well done, and happy to receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

However, you may have recently read that a good shift for a consultant looking after children and newborn infants means a great night’s sleep, and a cheque for £1800 at the end of it. (No, that’s not a misprint.)

Sounds good to me; a twelve hour shift and you’re paid the equivalent of a nurse’s monthly wage. I’d like some of that, please.

And to make it even more galling, this payment is on top of average earnings of £90,000 each year… Oh, plus bonuses.

And before the consultants start moaning that their job is highly technical, takes years of study and training, and that I couldn’t do their job…

Well, they couldn’t do my job, either. I doubt very much that they could stand on stage, or before a television camera, and keep an audience interested for an hour. But that’s neither an excuse for me being paid an exorbitant amount of money – which I’m not. Nor is it a reason for being paid a huge bundle of cash when wards are closing and patients are being treated like third class citizens.

And they couldn’t do the job of, let’s say, a bomb disposal expert who daily puts his life on the line in Afghanistan to protect the lives of the locals and his colleagues.

Also, I would expect these consultants to fail miserably if they were trying to do the job of a firefighter; running into a house fire or chemical spill while everybody else is sprinting in the opposite direction.

So income is not directly proportional to expertise. No, these outrageous payments have been approved so that the consultants can plug gaps in a rota, even though they are over-qualified. According to the report, the same work could be carried out by a mid-grade doctor.

Dr Jean Turner, a former MSP and director of the Scotland Patients Association, described the consultants’ employment as a “jolly good job”.

No, it’s more than that. It’s a gold-plated gravy train; that’s what it is.

Drew McAdam


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