Jim O’Neill says nurses can’t feed their families with hashtags from the First Minister – it’s time to scrap the nurses’ pay cap imposed by the SNP.


First, a declaration of interest. Both my brother and sister are nurses. My mother was a nurse, my aunt a matron and my daughter is a phlebotomist, although she has now left the NHS for sunnier (and better paid) climes in Australia. Through a longish life, I have had great care from the nurses in the NHS and I am proud to say I was born in the NHS.

Thus, I was proud to celebrate National Nurses Day last Friday, tweeting and Facebooking my support for our nurses. I noticed that Nicola Sturgeon also celebrated our nurses that day, tweeting the hashtag #heronurses. I must admit that I found that more than a little hypocritical, given that she and her party had voted to maintain the pay cap on nurses and other ancillary staff at 1% when inflation was trending at 2.5%, thus causing nurses to take an effective pay cut, now and every year until 2020.

This was in response to Labour’s motion in the Scottish Parliament to scrap the cap and allow real negotiations to return to health service wages, a motion that was defeated. Labour has also decided to scrap the cap in England and Wales if they are elected in the General Election, showing that Labour is the real party of public service.

The Royal College of Nursing also marked National Nurses Day by releasing a report which showed that a Grade 5 nurse would lose over £3,400 as a result of the cap and that the nurse recruitment crisis was worsening, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is no wonder that a new generation is thinking twice about turning to nursing as a career, with wages kept artificially low and the esteem in which they are held by our Scottish Government confined to warm words and a hashtag tweet. You can’t feed your family with a hashtag.

And our First Minister cannot avoid her share of the blame for the nursing crisis for it was she, while Health Minister, who cut the number of nurses to be recruited, a fact that seems to have been whitewashed from her biography. So, the nursing crisis is quite simply the result of decisions by the Scottish Government, not austerity or any other weasel reasons that their supporters come up with. Nye Bevan said, “Socialism is the language of priorities”. Clearly the Scottish Government’s priorities are elsewhere.

Turning to the massive ransomware attack which affected 7 Scottish Health Boards and many GP surgeries, along with many others in England, it would seem that many English trusts are still using Windows XP on their computers, operating software so old that Microsoft no longer support it. When Microsoft made that decision in 2015, NHS England did a special cybersecurity deal with them. However, that deal was cancelled by NHS England in 2016, leaving much of their computers open to security breaches. Maybe that is why Jeremy Hunt has been seen so little in the past few days. They would also not have received the special “patch”, a modification issued by Microsoft when they heard that this attack software, developed by the United States National Security Agency, had been stolen. Again, NHS England were even more vulnerable to such an attack.

Since much of this software and hardware dates from before the break up of the NHS, it is reasonable to ask what is the situation in Scotland. When Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, did NHS Scotland do a cybersecurity deal with them? Do they still have that deal? How much of Scotland’s health service is still using Windows XP? Did they get the patch? How vulnerable is Scotland’s health service to cyber attack? And it was no help saying that no patient records were lost or stolen. Ransomware is not interested in that. It scrambles your records until you pay a ransom, and then they release your records back to you.

So, Shona Robinson has a lot of questions to answer. Maybe she will come to Holyrood and make a statement answering these questions. If not, I am sure Anas Sarwar will ask them. Over to you, Anas.

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45 thoughts on “Scrap the cap

  1. Just a couple of little points about this feeble little article ! Jim is their a difference between the pay of a nurse in Scotland with a SNP government and the pay of a nurse in Wales run by a labour government ?

    And to raise the extra money required, I take it labour will be wanting to raise the actual taxes these nurse’s have to pay to get that extra money. Or does labour have yet another magic money tree on the go that we don’t know anything about.

  2. A pointless post as this subject has already been mentioned, but unfortunately not answered by Duncan.

    Maybe you will answer it, where is the money going to come from to pay for a greater than 1% pay increase to nurses and all public sector workers? Labours proposed 1p on the basic rate of income tax won’t cover it, so what do you propose to cut to fund the shortfall?

    Labour are very good it criticising the Scottish Government, but very poor at providing answers as to how they would do things differently. When you see how bad the NHS is in England, the SNP have done a pretty good job at protecting Scotland from the worst of the Tories austerity measures. I would really like to see some credible plans from Labour detailing how they would do the same, but I suspect they don’t have any and just resort to their usual tactics to hide that fact.

    As for your comments about the NHS IT infrastructure, any organisation with a decent backup and disaster recovery plan won’t have to pay any ransom to recover their data. Any suspect machine will be wiped and re-installed. All data will be recovered to verified safe point in time. Trusting the bad guys to be nice to you isn’t an option.

  3. Jim:

    WindowsXP and ransom-ware do NOT go hand-in-hand, any system can be attacked in this way, the OS is irrelevant.

    1. No but Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft and has not been for two years. So the question is, has the Scottish Government a cybersecurity deal with Microsoft. If not XP operating computers are particularly vulnerable to this particular attack, as is becoming clear from across the world

      1. XP is the operating system within the NHS across the whole of the UK that means Labour controlled Wales Jim Bob.
        I’m pretty sure the Government gives the NHS funding then leaves them to decide how to spend it.

        Still the gibbering wee party shrew.

    2. The answers to Jim’s questions on NHS IT had already been comprehensively answered before he hit the keyboard. He has either not been paying attention or hoping to con others who may not have noticed …. ie being a smidgen dishonest. My money is on the latter.

        1. Its been in the media. Newspapers, radio etc. For instance, by listening to Radio Scotland, I learned that less than1% of computers in NHS Scotland used XP. Its all out there.

  4. Jim you and the Scottish Labour Party are always banging on about the beloved Union and the so called pooling and sharing well old chap it does not work for example nurses are paid more is Scotland under an SNP goverment an less in England under a Westminster government and the devolved Labour government pay less that nurses in Scotland. So Jim the problem you have is with your support for the Torie Union government at Westminster and the devolved Welsh government seems you are a wee bit mixed up and confused.

  5. If Jim is being dishonest and he is not. Maybe Bungo you could explain why for the first time in 100 years nurses have voted to hold a ballot that might lead to Industrial action. I do not blame the SNP for this its been coming for some years. But the wage cap will be brocken if they decide to go for it. In Scotland that will be on Nicolas watch. I for one will expect all members of trade unions to back them . MSPS of all parties and MPS . As well as the people off all parties and none who comment on these blogs. I hope it does not come to that but if it does we cant afford not to fund it.
    Monday I had the pleasure of being in my local surgery for a course of treatment that lasted 2 hours. I knew this was going to happen so I took the paper with me. In that paper I read Rangers sold a 15 year old to Chelsea for 500 thousand a disgrace. Then we have Wayne Rooney who lost a huge sum in a casino. Then we find out he is on 13 million a year another disgrace. Maybe its time to time to some kind of national fund . Clubs with that kind of cash could be required by law to pay a percentage of say transfer fees into the fund . It could then be spent on things like the NHS.
    Between 14 and 15 I was a patient in 3 hospitals Crosshouse Gartnavel and the Queen Elizabeth. In 14 I had a fall at home and could not get up. I used my mobile to dial 999 the ambulance crew arrived could not get in. They called the police who forced the door. My GP also attended. The following night my family got a phone call at midnight from the staff at Crosshouse to say I might not get through the night. The NHS staff saved my life that night.
    I was in the Crosshouse high dependency ward I was in Gartnavel for 10 days and 1 week in the Queen Elizabeth Hospitals. I saw at first hand the dedication of all the staff members that includes cleaning staff porters and Patient Transport staff without them the Hospitals would stop functioning as well.
    I saw patients not me being transferred to ordinary wards from a high dependency ward at 1 am due to a shortage of beds. New patients were moved in. I saw staff including student nurses and doctors trying to deal with patients who were aggressive only because of their illness and treatment.
    Since then I have had to take an ill health retirement maybe some day Jim will do a blog on the delights of dealing with the DWP.
    I have also over the years got used to manageing oxygen outpatient visits GP visits constant medication visits from Respiratory Nurses.
    I like others see packed waiting rooms .Surgery staff often under pressure trying to cope.
    Again yesterday the chemist located in the same building had 2 ques 1 from the internal door leading from the surgery and 1 from the front door. People with walking difficulties were struggling to get a seat because they were all taken. Another large surgery in Irvine faced with Doctors retirement and recruitment problems without warning sent out letters to 1000 patients telling they were being transferred to another surgery.
    The NHS in Scotland is at breaking point and Nurses industrial action might break it. I should also say I saw private nurses being used to cover the shortage of NHS nurses
    I will finish by saying the locum who was in charge of the ward the night my life was saved was Greek. At outpatients my consultant was Indian 2 of my GPS the same. Plus numerous other healthcare professionals who have helped me.
    That is aimed at all the brexitteers who did not see past immigration . People who believed Nigel Farrage and his take our country back rubbish we never lost it.
    Does anyone think I asked any of those people before you help me where do you come from are you a true Brit.
    In my opinion if you live here and you contribute in any way shape or form no matter where you were born welcome because this is your country as well as mine
    I treat the blogs as a discussion forum and I am interested in other peoples views whether I agree with them or not

      1. I have worked in the NHS for over 30 years David. I know fine well the pressures it is under. Labour are good at listing all the problems. Jim spends his on-line life doing that. They are hopeless at coming up with solutions.

        Spend more money! Great, where is it coming from?

        Employ more consultants! Great, where from?

        All we have is the 50% tax rate for high earners. But that is for everything from the NHS to Local Govt to Policing to Child Care to Education to any number of other things it highlights in the hope people won’t notice the sums not adding up.

        Obviously money would help but, in an eternal austerity UK ruled by a Tory party that would love to see the NHS privatised, it won’t happen.

        1. “Labour are good at listing all the problems. Jim spends his on-line life doing that. They are hopeless at coming up with solutions.” – spot on, neither Jim or Duncan have specified what Labour would do differently from the SNP to improve matters and how they would fund it.

          This proves that Labour aren’t fit to govern in Scotland.

  6. How secure is the £600,000,000 deal for IT services that Mr McAveety signed off on for Glasgow?

  7. Your argument might carry more weight if the N.H.S. in England and Wales was a shining example of best practice. In truth, they suffer from chronic underfunding as well. It’s called austerity. You should take your own advice, Jim, and cut the crap.

  8. I see the Labour manifesto includes pledges to introduce policies Labour in Scotland has been opposing for over a decade.
    SNP policies that have been running in Scotland since 2007.
    It must really stick in the craw of Red Tory Labour in Scotland to be forced to pretend they support this new drive to the left.

    1. You mean like free university tuition, a policy brought in by the Labour/Lib Dem coalition in 2001?

      1. Labour didnt bring in free tuition in 2001 they rebranded their tuition fees as graduate endowments forcing students to pay 2K “FEES” towards their course costs.
        You honestly think that level of stupid spin allows you to claim free tuition in 2001? No Duncan it does’nt. It just makes you out to be a stupid willful liar.

        1. You’re the one wilfully lying, Mike. Labour and the Lib Dems abolished tuition fees in 2001. The Graduate Endowment had nothing to do with tuition. Its proceeds were used to fund bursaries for less well off students to improve access to HE from marginalised communities. It was this Graduate Endowment that the SNP abolished in 2007, and they went on to slash bursaries, leading to today’s situation where fewer folk from marginalised communities in Scotland attend university, despite free tuition, than in England.

          Once again the person lying here is you, Mike.

          1. It was a charge Students had to pay for their tuition. Nothing more nothing less. That made it a FEE for tuition.
            You know it I know it everybody reading this knows it.
            That’s why yer wilful lying is stupid.

          2. Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true Mike. Tuition fees are paid to the university. They have been paid from general taxation since 2001, when the Labour/Lib Dem executive scrapped the payment of tuition fees by the student. The graduate endowment was paid to the government, not the university. It was used to fund bursaries, not tuition. The money was not paid to university, but to other students.

  9. Bungo thank you for your comment if you are in any of the Hospitals I was in and am still attending thanks.
    I was only talking about the things I saw and feel. So taking party politics out of it .As someone who has spent his life working in the NHS what do you think should and can be done. I for one am interested in hearing other peoples views . You I think could make a good contribution

    1. Hi David. What needs to be done is difficult politically and practically. Any Party that undertook it would instantly be turned upon by the others as an opportunity to make political gains.

      The first thing that needs to be done is employ more front line staff be they medics, nurses or consultants. However, the people aren’t there to be employed as yet. Certainly not in the UK and Brexit will only exacerbate the problem. It will require training over time (not to mention the willing volunteers to undertake the training) and so is not an instant fix.

      The biggest thing that needs done is to cull the behemoth that is NHS mgt and admin. It is truly massive now and is a damaging, self perpetuating drain on resources that also demoralises staff leading to retention problems. I could give you numerous examples of mgt “badness” but that would take too long. They used to inhabit a department in hospitals, now they take up entire former hospital sites. The Tories introduced the “cancer” with their ludicrous “internal market” and successive Labour and SNP govts have been unable to deal with them.

      This is because mgt would instantly turn on any Party that tried to rationalise them with the opposition partys only too willing to back them on “crusade to prevent an attack on the NHS” as it would inevitably be portrayed. £bns could be freed up but it won’t happen because it has become politically impossible.

      I have other points but have to go now. Keep well.

      1. Thanks again for your comments. As someone who works in the NHS you have seen it . What you are talking about will have to be done. But none of our political parties have the bottle to do it.
        We are in a situation where nurses are thinking off industrial action. Unthinkable even a few short years ago .
        When I was in Gartnavel in August 2014 there was a newspaper article saying Hospitals were only surviving on nurses good will. When I showed it to them I got a few smiles and grins they told me I did not know the half of it.
        You do know so keep on in there don’t give up and on behalf of myself and all the other NHS patients a big thanks for your years of service
        PS in the next blog don’t worry normal service will be resumed ha ha

  10. I hear Labour in Scotland I.e Kezia is asking the Blue Tories and Orange Tories for a tactical voting alliance in Scotland which will undermine Jeremy Corbyn as he tries to make up ground on the Blue Tories across the UK.
    The Red Tories of Scotland are willing once again to betray the Labour party in order to stick it to their Social Democratic leader and the ONLY mainstream Social Democratic party in Scotland in order to benefit the Blue Tories.

    Better an overwhelming Blue Tory majority than a social Democratic Labour come back eh Duncan?
    Better extremist right wing fascism than any sniff of Social Democracy anywhere in the UK eh Duncan?

    The legacy of the Blairite sickness.

  11. “Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true Mike.”

    Then stop doing it. Students had to pay for their tuition under Labour and the Lib Dems in 2001 and until the SNP took power in 2007. Labour called the FEE a Graduate Endowment. It was a fee because it was a charged payment forced onto Students as a cost to their tuition.
    Denying it was a tuition fee is stupid wilful lying. For who’s benefit? Nobodies! That’s just demented and a clear reflection of where the Red Tory Labour party is right now. Just because it became a Red Tory party.

    1. Tuition fees are paid to universities, right? Because the university provides the tuition? You can, at least, understand that piece of logic, I hope.

      Such fees have been paid by the government out of general taxation since the decision in 2001 to scrap the fees paid by students.

      Here’s the bit you don’t seem willing, or able, to grasp. The graduate endowment was paid after the university course was completed and after all tuition fees had been paid by government. It was paid to government, not universities, because it was a contribution towards bursaries for future students, not a fee for tuition.

      1. Students wouldn’t be paying the charge to anybody if it wasn’t for their need to pay for tuition so the payment is for their tuition you can at least acknowledge that indisputable fact. A TUITION CHARGE paid by students for their tuition to the Government.
        It doesn’t matter when the charge is paid what matters is the fact that a payment is made FOR TUITION. That makes it a TUITION CHARGE / FEE.
        You’re denials are frankly a sign of mental illness at this point.

        1. Once again, Mike, it’s not a payment for their tuition. No matter how many times you assert it is.

          1. Then what do they get for their money specifically? What did they get back in return for their 2K?

          2. They didn’t get anything. It was a contribution towards bursaries for future students. As I’ve already told you more than once.

  12. Duncan are you seriously telling voters that neither Labour nor the Lib Dems are in a position to challenge the SNP in Scotland? Are you actually prompting Labour and Lib Dem voters to vote Tory?

  13. “They didn’t get anything. It was a contribution”

    So Students in Scotland were paying the tuition fees of future students in Scotland?

    1. Would these student have received their tuition if they didn’t pay 2K to the Government?

      1. They had already received their tuition before they were required to pay the Graduate Endowment. Jesus wept.

        1. So no student would have to pay the 2k “Endowment” in order to get their tuition. Its not compulsory?

          1. They had already completed all of their tuition, Mike. I explained this to you already. Get someone to read the words to you slowly.

    2. If in doubt, cut a sentence halfway through to pretend it says something else. Because after all, people don’t have scroll bars, do they.

      1. People not receiving tuition, didn’t pay a fee. People who did receive tuition did have to pay a fee.

        That’s a tuition fee. A fee for tuition. People paid tuition fees.

        Just stop lying for once in your pathetic labour-nazi life.

        1. People who did receive tuition also had to pay for their university accommodation. People not receiving tuition didn’t.

          Does that make their accommodation fee a tuition fee as well? Or are you just an angry idiot?

          1. Too many people are dancing on the head of a pin. The concept of a graduate payment is widely used across the world to fund bursaries for poorer students. Since the SNP removed it, they have consistently cut funding for poorer students, despite manifesto promises. We now have fewer people from poorer backgrounds attending University, Cause and effect

  14. “They had already completed all of their tuition, Mike. I explained this to you already. Get someone to read the words to you slowly.”

    And because they did they were forced to pay 2K. A Fee they would not have been obligated to pay if they hadn’t taken the tuition.

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