Cuts and efficiency
– and acronyms

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Another one before I leave for lunch (which I never normally have).

The cutting of funding (in this instance the National Health Service) is announced stereotypically as “efficiency savings”. I first encountered this piece of lying jargon in 1981 when the Thatcher government introduced severe and abrupt cuts in university spending. Cutting money does not introduce efficiency. Is it efficient to reduce the number of nurses?

The kind of efficiency that is meant in this world of double-think is that is defined by more managers ticking more boxes. Efficiency should be defined in relation to the proportion of staff time devoted to doing the actual job (i.e. treating patients or teaching) and the reduction in the amount of managerial processes needed to achieve this. One reason why the National Health Service suffers disasters in care, of the kind just published, is because well-meaning people in the front line have been dragooned into believing that satisfying managerial imperatives is a higher priority to their continued employment than the simple, humane business of care. No-one goes into front-line care with the intention of neglecting patients.

Along the way… I’m thinking of writing something in praise of (humane) inefficiency.

Also along the way… you might note that I have not written “NHS”.

I am the founder and to date the only member of SAC; the Society for the Abolition of Acronyms. Like all forms of jargon, acronyms convey a spurious notion of special knowledge and serve to keep outsiders outside. Not good.