Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 65)




  60. This is hugely embarrassing for the BMA, is it not, because your consultants' committee negotiated this contract? You were backing it.
  (Dr Bogle) Yes. It is not the best day for the BMA. On the other hand, if you do go out to an open ballot, occasionally you get a result that maybe was not quite what was expected. That is why I need to get back and assist in dealing with it.

Kelvin Hopkins

  61. We were talking about death rates and you suggested that you would choose to do less risky operations. Might that be a good thing, that the less good surgeons do the less risky operations, leaving the best surgeons to do the more difficult ones and reduce death rates overall?
  (Dr Bogle) Life is not like that. It might be all surgeons deciding to just do simpler operations and nobody at all copes with the other ones. It is just a question of looking into all statistics and saying why is your rate worse than others. That is all I would ask for: listen to the reasoning before you make a judgment.

Mr Heyes

  62. David Hart has embarked on the same course of action as the BMA. No doubt you are anxious about the prospects of failure and it would be embarrassing if, like the BMA, you failed. But we have been arguing this morning along a continuum where, at the one end you have detailed targets with rigorous implementation, punitive consequences for failure and generous rewards for success; and at the other end you have "get off our backs and trust us—we are professionals." David Hart said that we have to get the balance right. I do not see any evidence from the discussions this morning or from the wider debate that that will happen. It seems to me that this situation leads to an inevitable failure to agree and a search for a different approach. We see evidence of that from those who argue for the introduction of more choice, letting the market decide and so on. Is that the inevitable consequence of failure to agree or is it worse than that? Is that what the profession wants, in the case of the medical profession?
  (Dr Bogle) I believe the profession wants to work in a health service that has increased investment, gives better service to patients and they wish to retain or regain some clinical freedom in the consulting room as to the way they deal with their patients. There are vast areas between the government and ourselves where there is agreement. We have focused on targets setting. That is your remit. I have set views, but there is a raft of other things that we are talking about with the government where there is agreement. I would ask you not to take such a pessimistic view either of the future or of the BMA's contribution.
  (Mr Hart) In the education service, the danger is that schools will simply get on with the job, as they have always done, of sorting their own targets out, challenging the achievable at school level and will increasingly ignore what the local authorities may have signed up to with central government and will say, "Fine, if the Chancellor wants to enter into PSAs and the departments want to sign up to them and those are the targets, so be it." At the end of the day, the ministers will be accountable to you. Perhaps they should be more accountable to you in terms of progress against these targets across the board and the electorate will decide at the next election as to whether the government has or has not achieved its aspirations in educational terms. It will not damage the relationship between heads and central government to the degree you think it will because that is a good relationship and I think it will continue to be. We will always have these odd squalls which we will have to try and sort out. This is an issue which does disturb head teachers a great deal because of the impact it has on them in terms of running their schools and relationships with local authorities, but maybe we will have to agree to disagree. The government can have its targets and we will do our very best to try and make sure those targets are met.

  63. How can you agree to disagree?
  (Mr Hart) Because the government simply cannot macro manage 24,000 schools. Otherwise it would get rid of local education authorities tomorrow. It has to have local authorities for all sorts of good, strategic reasons. It has to rely on the local authorities to deliver its agenda. The problem we have at the moment is that the government tends to want to both steer and row the boat. It can steer the boat, if it wants to, if we row the boat. We have to respect our roles. I am absolutely certain we will improve results across the spectrum. Whether we will achieve the 85 per cent that the government wants us to achieve by 2004 remains to be seen. It will not be for want of trying. We will not stop trying because we do not necessarily agree with the targets, but it would be nice if we could get some consensus around how that agenda lives with our common belief that there should be more autonomy and more respect for the professionalism and judgment of teachers.

Mr Prentice

  64. Dr Bogle, why is it that over a quarter of all consultants could not be bothered voting in this ballot on the contract?
  (Dr Bogle) I have not a clue. 75 per cent in a ballot is quite a high turn out. I would have hoped it was not disinterest because it is something that affects their future in a big way, but I do not know.

  65. I am looking at it down the other end of the telescope.
  (Dr Bogle) We could look down telescopes at election turn outs.

  Chairman: I think more work in the office when you get back! May I thank you both very much? It may be unusual for you to come together to talk in this way about services but it is very valuable for us both in what you have said and in the memorandum that you have given us. You are both distinguished leaders in your professions and we are very grateful to you for all the help that you were able to give us. Thank you very much.

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Prepared 26 November 2002