Sick system?

Please take note

European communities
finance billEuropean communities finance bill
Alan Johnson, the NuLabour MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle and Health Secretary, is to 'tackle' the problem of the sick note culture, reported today, 20th February 2008, by both the Times and The Independent. The latter opts to put the apostrophes around sick note culture, see HERE

I've elected to put them around tackle, and there is a huge difference. For what does tackle mean? What is he trying to do, and will he, or won't he, be successful? To say that Johnson 'will eliminate' this practice is fraught with difficulty, what if he fails? I think the word tackle gives a lot of wriggle room, a bit like the word aspiration. Meaning just something we say, a soundbite, what you want to hear etc, what used to be called twaddle. Never, but never, meaning a promise. Much as we all thought that a political manifesto contained promises on things like referendums, I think that tackle will turn out to a euphemism for failure and, in six months, or so they hope, forgotten. Again, much as in time we are to forget about the referendum. Under NuLabour so many things have been tackled but so few resolved. Yob culture, binge drinking, obesity, you name it they've tackled it. And then moved on. Are we fooled? Not at all. Right now as real events wend their way through the House of Commons, events like: the EU TreCon pseudo debate and the Northern Rock saga, we have announcements on immigration and sick notes. The cynic might say that so much is to be tackled there are not enough hours in the day, so thank God that over 80% of our law comes ready formed direct from the EU, thus leaving more time for tackling. And as you might have imagined with NuLabour there is a lot of blame shift and victimology here. Too many sick notes are not the fault of the Government, it's the Doctors. Hence, these wise words from Johnson were given to the British Heart Foundation, who were told,

"We want to explore what else GPs can do to change our sick note culture into a well note culture".

But what if the patient is sick Mr Johnson? Surely this is a decision for a Doctor and not an ex-Postman. Medicine is a science yes, but not in the same league as an applied science like structural engineering. Some patients get well, some don't, we cannot apply a theorem, as as in the deflection of a steel beam under load.
"Nothing, nothing wrong with you" "Nothing, nothing wrong with you"
The Independent article also mentions back pain -

Quote 'Back pain alone costs employers £600 million a year, with sufferers of persistent back problems taking on average 17 days off sick per year. Only half of those with back problems who are signed off for six months or more return to work. Only a quarter of those signed off for a year or more will return'.

From my research I can say that the cost of back pain falls not only on employers, but on the sufferers too. I know of not one case of chronic back pain solved by the NHS. It would seem this is one medical condition, and a very common one, that cannot be solved unless you go for private treatment. And all this despite the vast amounts of money poured into the NHS.

Another quote on sick notes, this time from BBC Radio 4 - by Dr John Canning "I'm surprised how few employers actually want to get people back to work", - "The vast majority of people I see... are not at all keen on getting people back to work. They want people who are 100% fit or not at all. "The key problem here is with the employers and not with the GPs."

So Mr Johnson it might not be as easy as you think, the GPs cannot wave a magic wand.

All taxpayers would want the sick note cheats dealt with, as anyone who has worked in an organisation will attest, those present have to work to cover those absent. So take a look at all those empty spaces on the green benches in the photograph at the top of this article. This is the House of Commons. Do the absent there have to explain themselves? Do suffers of chronic back pain spend hours on radio and TV quiz shows and the like, or is it just MPs and resting actors?

Tackling is easy Tackling is easy
The House of Commons has been roughly the same size for years, since before we joined the EU, or EEC as it was then. As mentioned before 80% of our laws come 'plug and play' ready formed, with neither the need nor the opportunity for debate. If saving money is the name of the game, and I assume it is, hence we are tackling this latest challenge, then why not reduce our MP's numbers by 80%. That would give us a chamber of about 135 members. As it was estimated that the good family Conway has cost us about £255,000 per year, then we would be saving about £130 million per year. While that's not the annual back pain cost paid for, it is a start. This tackling is really easy once you get the hang of it.