An average of 6,500 Scotland's NHS staff were off sick every day last year. In September 2009 the NHS employed 168,976.
The Scottish government pointed out that absence in the NHS has dropped considerably in recent years. 'The proportion of absenteeism from 2006/7 to 2009/10 decreased by 14%'.
This isn't a good enough explanation for Derek Brownlee, the Scottish tories finance spokesman though. He proposes a system of 'absence management' used by such firms as FirstCare (note the URL), with central reporting and immediate clinical assessment of absentees to return them to work as quickly as possible. FirstCare, a private equity-backed management company, claim to have reduced absence levels by an average of 26% within a year during trials with 17 NHS trusts in England.
The system includes a nurse-led contact centre for staff to contact at the first sign of illness and Mr Brownlee insists such radical measures were needed to tackle absenteeism in Scotland.
He does have a point insofar as absenteeism is higher in the public sector than the private sector but is this system the way the Scottish NHS should be heading? Would the management costs of a scheme like FirstCare outweigh any savings?"Many people rightly question why absenteeism is so much lower in the private sector than in the public sector".
Why is it I get the feeling that the nice Mr Brownlee is championing FirstCare on behalf of his boss in Westminster? Maybe it's the .eu which motivated me to have a dig around to see what I can find out about the company. It would appear the new chairman, Richard Burrell formed Mathieson Capital in September 2010, a private equity investment business which will be investing in FirstCare at its next funding round.
I'm certainly not suggesting that FirstCare is anything but a highly professional business offering a highly professional service, but it doesn't make sense to outsource an administrative section of the NHS when the Scottish government states the NHS are coping well with the issue and a reduction of 14% absenteeism in the past 5 years shows definite progress.
We have enough organisations involved in NHS Scotland without another jumping on board.