As I was conducting my usual half-hour debate with myself about whether or not to get out of bed this morning, the radio informed me of a government report about NHS sick leave. The way in which it was presented was strange, though. It appears to have been deemed significant and worrying both that there are higher absentee rates in the health service due to ill-health and that staff sometimes turn up for work despite the fact that they feel a bit poorly.

I know as well as anyone else that Parliament is in recess, which leaves everyone short of something to report; but this sort of self-contradictory nonsense is simply not to be borne. Firstly, people who work long hours in the presence of people who are ill are bound to contract more illnesses than people like me, who work in a small team with relatively little public contact. Secondly, the reason that the private sector loses fewer working hours to sick leave is precisely that people come to work even though they’re feeling ill. Even adverts for flu remedies encourage this ‘sickness is for wimps’ work ethic, but there are obvious problems with applying it to health care. Either you want doctors and nurses to soldier on through their own problems regardless or you want them to stay at home and avoid compromising patient care. You can’t have it both ways.

Perhaps the most significant waste that was pointed out by the BBC report to which I linked is, however, the fact that the NHS has more administrative staff than doctors and more managers than paramedics. It’s nice to see that the Health Service has discovered the benefits of actually caring about the health of its staff, but I’m certain that more money could be saved (and if the government isn’t trying to save money it jolly well should be) by cutting administrative positions across the public sector, rather than singling out one group of public-sector workers and suggesting that they take too much sick leave. Karen Jennings of Unison made the most sensible statement in that entire article, and she has nothing to do with the government. Could these two facts possibly be related?