Silly hats, uniforms.

I went back to Doncaster yesterday, to take part in the Person-Centred Care training day we have been running for the past year.

On this occasion, I attended as a guest speaker, which was a novelty.

I also took with me some colleagues from Rotherham, so that they could get a feel for  the work we have done over the years developing services for older people in Doncaster.

At lunch I sat for a little while with Jo and Louise in the hospital dining room – discussing the morning’s events.

The cafeteria in Doncaster is undergoing a refurbishment – the organisation last year agreed to enter into a contract with Sodexo the multinational facilities giant, for the provision of catering. This has allowed investment in the hospital and has led to new food menus, delivery schedules, etc.

Half the room was closed to allow for building work.

That wasn’t however what caught my eye. Well, it was three things in fact.

  1. There was a very long, rolled-up sausage in the servery.
  2. They now have contactless payment for food
  3. Because of the takeover, all the catering staff instead of being employed by the hospital aka the NHS are now Sodexo employees.

It was strange, seeing the same people I had known over the years now wearing different uniforms with big badges and silly hats. I can’t remember whether the checkout staff used to wear hats, these ones however, stood-out.

I am not saying whether this is good or bad, it is just a thing.

I have seen this in Rotherham as well – there, the catering staff work for a different company, I think they are called ‘iss’ – which is another facilities conglomerate.

The staff didn’t seem unhappy. They just looked different.

I wonder how they feel.

I didn’t have an opportunity to ask – the queue was long and the cafeteria busy.

This is commonplace in the UK.

Cleaning, security, catering, all out-sourced to private companies. A significant proportion of the clinical workforce are also primarily employed by agencies – doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists.

Many of the buildings, most often the shiniest are built under the scheme of Private Finance Initiatives – that is, the hospital is owned by private companies and the NHS pays rent.

It is a good job we aren’t charging our patients yet.

But – azoy – is that not coming, is that not the government’s plan, to squeeze the health service, generating a sense of economy and effectiveness that somehow manages to support shareholders as well as keep the corridors clean?

I don’t know.

Tereos Syral Marckolsheim - 11 / 03 / 2013

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