Sunday, 8 August 2010

Scotland, Saving £21billion, Spending a Penny, and Chicken Sandwiches?

Scotland was a good place to be these last two weeks. Sun, Shiraz and Sandy Beaches were the order of the day, and it felt so good not opening up emails, or doing anything more cerebral than reading the latest Dan Brown. Despite the photo, Cello was in his element. Often the beaches were completely deserted and he could run for hours, unlike me!

Unsurprisingly, my re-engagement with a different reality has proved difficult. Even without email and phones, it did not escape my notice that the economic problems are beginning to become manifest as requirements, targets and objectives that will have to be addressed very quickly, and which, in doing so, are going to hurt. It is clear the £21billion NHS saving requirement will have far reaching consequences for us all. As a School of Nursing and Midwifery, we will need not only to keep focused on our vision for the future, but need to become innovative, creative in way that we haven’t perhaps even contemplated to date. We know that our commission numbers for pre-registration nurse education and training have been reduced over the next three years, and these cuts are likely to be revised, with further cuts likely going forward. Whilst this will save large sums of money for the NHS and severally challenge our five year business plans, the real cost will be three or four years down the road where there will simply not be enough nurses in the system to ensure the quality of future health care.

My fear is that in pursuing the need to achieve these unprecedented cuts in public sector spending, we will increasingly find ourselves in a Michael O’Leary paradigm. O’Leary is the current CEO of Ryanair. His claim is that Ryanair is the most successfully airline in the world. Once calling his aeroplanes ‘buses with wings’ he is perhaps best known for his fanatical cost-cutting approach to running his airline. It has even been alleged that Ryanair staff have to pay for most of their training and equipment, and of course they are still contemplating fitting coin operated toilets on their flights. Spending a penny would really bring in the pounds.

I was interested to read this week of the plight of Norwegian Henrik Ulveren, who was arrested after Ryanair called the police when he refused to pay for an ‘inedible’ chicken sandwich. The incredibly priced sandwich (£3.80) was said to be like rubber and didn’t look like the picture in the promotion literature. On arrival at Oslo, Henrik was arrested by police who he says simply laughed at the incident after he explained what happened, and he was soon allowed to go on his way.

Chickens sandwiches have for some time been big business. It was the American Truett Cathy, who opened his first 24 hour six day a week fast food business, and introduced the chicken sandwich. His business has been phenomenally successful. His business has grown to some 700 outlets called Chick-fil-A. Whilst being a huge success in the US many of us would not recognize the name, although we might be familiar with the advertising campaign ‘eat mor chikin’. Chick-fil-A's menu still includes the classic chicken sandwich although the breakfast menu does include several variations of chicken biscuits including a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and mini chicken bite biscuits. On June 7, this year, Chick-fil-A released the spicy chicken sandwich and spicy chicken deluxe sandwich. The sandwich has received mixed reviews. What makes Truett’s approach different from the O’Leary business model is that the root of his operating success, resides in his care and respect -- his love -- for others. To this day none of his restaurants open on a Sunday. He claims that all his employees benefit and that no matter how they might chose to use a day of rest; it’s a chance for them to find themselves. ‘Profits should be the score, not the name of the game’ Truett advised in his 1989 book "It's Easier to Succeed Than to Fail." It is to be hoped that here is a place for such thinking as we move forward into the uncharted waters of a new and much less resourced NHS.