The election is done and the new UK Government installed. The 50 day spending review has started. We know from early announcements that cuts to public sector funding will start this year. I am aware that many of the organisations who make up our educational practice partners have already started to look at how they will deal with what are likely to be large cuts to their funding. For the NHS, this will inevitably involve reconfiguring services, moving services to the independent sector and closing some services altogether. For those of us who have been around the NHS for a little while, this is not an unfamiliar scenario. What perhaps makes things different today is the sheer scale of re-adjustment required. It is scary, and of course any changes made in practice will often have a real impact upon our work in the School.
For example, we have for the last year, had to manage an increasingly turbulent practice placement environment, with more clinical placements being lost to those being created through service reconfigurations. Students from all three Universities providing pre-registration nurse education in the Greater Manchester area have been affected. With the half of the educational experiences being facilitated by learning opportunities in practice, this continues to be a difficult situation to respond to.
Likewise, service reconfigurations often provide opportunities for organisations to re-think the size, shape and compositions of their workforce. Almost inevitably there will be a reduction in the overall numbers required. Managing the long term impact of this situation will also be challenging. I am not sure that the private sector can offer us much help or direction here. This week I noticed a report commissioned by Abbey Legal Protection about how organisations in the private sector are likely to address the severe down turn in the economy. When asked what costs they would be most likely to cut back on in the next year to maintain profitability, 38% of senior management reported they would cut back on staff numbers, 8% opting to slash staff pension contributions, 7% health insurance, 7% IT support and 5% of the managers surveyed declaring they would not touch the client biscuit budget. Perhaps the reports authors had read my blog from last week, and noted the relationship between chocolate and well being.
Nothing quite beats a chocolate covered ginger biscuit – well except perhaps, a dish of fresh English asparagus, served with home made hollandaise sauce, a lightly poached free range egg and hand cut triple fried chips. In a week of birthday celebrations this rather lovely meal was one I really enjoyed!
However, the Food Standards Agency may have disapproved of my choice of food. It was reported this week that they are planning to consult on whether ‘fat taxes’ on food would help make people eat more healthily. Food is currently exempt from VAT. One proposal is thought to be adding 17.5% VAT to full fat milk, butter and cheese to encourage a switch to products with less saturated fat. A study carried out by University of Nottingham (2004) suggested a wide-ranging fat tax would raise around £2billion a year.
And of course it would be impossible to mention Nottingham without also mentioning my favourite film seen this week – Ridley Scott’s tremendously good Robin Hood. It is perhaps just as well that the Food Standards Agency didn’t exist in his day.