Déjà lu is a symptom that affects all Spectator subscribers after a while: the feeling that, when reading the newspapers, that you have read the story before. Long before. Four months ago, The Spectator ran a cover story about a crisis that hadn’t then hit the news: the meltdown in our ambulance service. Mary Wakefield’s investigation revealed how paramedics were leaving in droves and that ambulance chiefs were being forced into ever-more-desperate measures to try to replace them.
The scandal has since hit the newspapers, in many instalments. Today, newspapers now report that they are recruiting from Poland. A spokesman for South Central Ambulance Service is quoted as saying:-
“We have been carrying out some international recruitment in Poland for paramedics where their qualifications, skills and experience are very similar to our own and meet our own high standards for staff.”
I’m not quite sure why this would cause uproar: he’s dead right. Polish healthcare methods are the same as ours – better, in many ways (which is why so many Poles in Britain avoid the NHS dentists and GPs).
Mary revealed back in August that it’s not just Poland – they’re also talking about recruiting from China. She quoted meetings of the London Ambulance Service board discussing the recruitment crisis. Here’s a longer extract:-
David Prince gave an update on recruitment activity… [he] added that he was also exploring options for recruiting from the military and was looking to understand whether there was an alternative route to becoming a paramedic, other than going to university.
Nick Martin asked whether the recruitment campaign should focus on other countries such as China and Philippines. David responded that this had been considered but that the training was variable and therefore conversion to UK requirements was more difficult. Australia and New Zealand had been targeted as they had an oversupply of paramedics and the baseline training was very similar to that of the UK.
Theo de Pencier suggested that the 2015 Rugby World Cup might also attract people to work in London.
Note the language: Australia and New Zealand are being “targeted” by a British NHS that can’t seem to find or retain staff in a country with several million indigenous unemployed, many of whom have healthcare experience.
So let’s be clear about this: the ambulance service is in such crisis that some of its directors seriously believe that next year’s Rugby World Cup will help it recruit people to come to Britain and be a paramedic. I’d love to be in those meetings: I’d have a few suggestions. Series 2 of The Fall has started – surely the Chinese will want to come here and be paramedics to watch that! Problem solved!
A better solution to poaching other peoples’ ambulance workers is to fix our own ambulance service. Mary Wakefield listed ideas in her cover piece. It’s still the best thing you’ll read on the topic.