High pay, worker ownership and distance to hospital

The suggestion has been made that a quango, yet another quango, should be established to report on the enormously high pay and bonus levels that apply in some businesses, especially in financial services.

The response of the City has been predictable. If you don’t let us have the money we’ll go elsewhere.

Certainly it would be better if the problem were addressed globally or even regionally. Following the global financial meltdown of recent months, a number of nations are looking at regulating pay levels. It is very encouraging that the USA is amongst their number. The changes in banking secrecy regulation in Switzerland and Lichtenstein that have just been announced are a good start to international co-operation in the finance field and may bode well for further developments in due course.

The divisions that are apparent between the top and the bottom of pay scales in some businesses and the hostility that is engendered is mirrored in the divisions between management and shopfloor in many workplaces. In order to overcome these problems we should look for inspiration to those highly successful businesses, like John Lewis/Waitrose, where the control and/or ownership of the business is vested in the entire workforce. This does away with the ‘us and them’ attitude and creates an identity of interest for all involved.

When everyone has an equal interest in success and a common focus for their efforts, progress seems almost inevitable.

Such an arrangement could also be characterised as mutual jeopardy – harm to one harms all – but that is a rather negative approach.

It is hard to imagine a workplace that could not benefit from such a stimulating approach. The atmosphere in such egalitarian businesses must pay for itself many times over in enhanced commitment, going the extra mile, mutual encouragement and openness between colleagues.

The move of the new emergency hospital to Cramlington has sparked some lively exchanges in The Courant of late. It is undoubtedly true that emergencies and serious illness is best dealt with in places with expert staff and all the equipment on hand but studies have shown a problem with distances to hospital. One study in particular, done in Sheffield in 2007, came up with the following conclusion:

Conclusion: Increased journey distance to hospital appears to be associated with increased risk of mortality. Our data suggest that a 10-km increase in straight-line distance is associated with around a 1% absolute increase in mortality.


Emerg. Med. J. 2007;24;665-668

Jon Nicholl, James West, Steve Goodacre and Janette Turner. The relationship between distance to hospital and patient mortality in emergencies: an observational study.]

So now you know.

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