Why is the left not outraged at plans to send nurses to prison?
You might think the government’s plans for new legislation, allowing workers to be sent to prison as a cover for the failures of management, would bring some kind of outraged reaction from the left. Yet two days on from the gleeful announcement that doctors and nurses may end up in Wormwood Scrubs, there’s been no such reaction.
Why’s that, then?
As Chris at Stumbling and Mumbling has repeatedly set out over the years, one of the enduring myths of modern capitalism is the efficacy of managerialism. Here, that myth is taken one stage further. Instead of an acknowledgment that the rise in very poor care in the NHS correlates closely to the rise of managerialism in the last 30 years* (and the corresponding decline in standards once maintained by professional ethic), we get a scapegoating of the workforce: the message that, because even strict quality managerial targets have not always been met, then management has no option but to go one step further, and invoke the law.
The alternative – admitting that doctors and nurses might be better than manager at maintaining standards if given the scope to do so** – is no longer even mentioned, not even by the professional bodies and unions themselves.
The efficacy of management was no. 1 on Chris’s recent ‘top 10 lazy assumptions’ list. No 2 was, with just cause, the “denigration of professional standards and ethics”. Quite right. My only quibble is that they, apparently, no longer need denigrating – even those who hold them dear no longer seem to thing they’re relevant to the debate.
Now that’s ideology.
* None of this should be taken as a way of excusing staff from personal responsibility for crime, I hasten to add. Portaying explanation and exploration as excuse-making is a favourite hobby of the rightwing press, but as I set out here it’s perfectly possible to excplore what’s gone wrong in the system without offering excuses for those who’ve used the inadequacies of that system to sate their lust for power and abuse.
** Or more properly, if it takes the scope for itself. The potential for that is something I’m exploring locally through my elected governorship of an NHS Foundation Trust, on which more soon.