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Public health ideologues don’t come cheap

May 14th, 2013 Posted in health by

Back in 2009, Dick Puddlecote highlighted a particularly odious piece of behaviour from a member of the “caring” profession who had long before decided that he could make a greater contribution to our collective wellbeing and his bank balance by practicing politics rather than medicine. Chris Spencer-Jones attempt to close the legally exempt smoking room in a hospice on ideological grounds were of course ignored by the mainstream media presumably because it views people who hold medical degrees as saints who can never be shown to do anything other than good works for the rest of humanity.  Fortunately the Birmingham Mail is rather less squeamish when it comes to exposing unpleasant ideologues and reported the Public Health Director’s inhumane efforts.

Obviously, Spencer–Jones was not fired or even reprimanded for what he did as common decency is not considered all that desirable in the modern public health bureaucrat.  He soldiered manfully on, talking utter twaddle, attending meetings, preparing PowerPoint presentations and performing all the other duties of a public health official until 2012. The Birmingham Mail also soldiered on, exposing the fact that Birmingham had not one but at one stage five Directors of Public Health and that they cost £600,000 per annum between them.  Two of them were paid more than the Prime Minister. Spencer–Jones was on over £145,000.

Spencer-Jones and his colleagues do appear to have been paid rather extravagantly for doing very little but they were by no means the highest paid public health bureaucrats in the land.  Thanks to the Guardian’s report on civil service pay back in 2010 we can see that the highest paid Director of Public Health at that time was ardent socialist, champion of the NHS, opponent of big business and “plain” packs supporter Gabriel Scally.

oakley blog salaries
I do not normally comment on the salaries of others but I am happy to make an exception in the case of public health because for many years it has been a gravy train for the not especially talented and those with political axes to grind. In recent decades it has cost many millions and delivered very little except for a more divided and unhappy society in which an increasingly judgemental approach is encouraged towards behaviours deemed unacceptable by a well-heeled elite. Huge sums have been spent on lifestyle propaganda whilst the people who work in “real” public health laboratories have had their budgets squeezed.

Gabriel Scally very publicly resigned in 2012 ostensibly because he doesn’t like the current government and what he thinks that it is doing to the NHS. He also doesn’t care much for responsibility deals and is upset by the very thought of elected governments treating legitimate companies that he doesn’t like as anything other than enemies of the state. Prior to resigning he apparently saw his staff shrink from 50 to 9, which although unfortunate for his staff, who I hope found something more worthwhile to do, has to be a very good thing overall. Similar good things seem to have been happening in Birmingham where at around the same time Spencer-Jones and his colleagues were reduced from four to one.

Before we get too excited about the NHS reforms actually doing some good, we should pause and consider the fact that the government is not promising a reduction in spending on the public health industry but is simply shifting responsibility for public health to local authorities and a new QUANGO that may be no less profligate than those that preceded it. A number of local authorities appear to be acquiring Public Health Directors and the going rate seems to be £75-£100,000 which is consistent with what the local authority contingent of the Birmingham four /five were being paid. Chris Snowdon has pointed out that the transfer of budget to local authorities from PCTs has done nothing to curb spending on health lobbyists in the North East where £2.8 Million is already earmarked to pay spin doctors to lobby government and tell people how to behave. Apparently the “The unanimous view of the new directors of public health, together with the Health and Well-being Committees, was that funding … should continue.” Health and Well-being Committees sound rather ominous so I am not hopeful that we are going to see much change. One would hope that local authorities would at least be more accountable than the NHS but does anyone know who the new people responsible for bankrolling the lobbyists are?

By Chris Oakley. Chris’ previous posts on Liberal Vision include: Minimum pricing – policy based evidenceAlcohol is Old News – Minimum Pricing for Digestives is the “Next Logical Step” , Soviet Style Alcohol Suppression Campaign Called for By Public Health Activists , Alcohol Taxation: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth Lies, damn lies, statistics &… , The Department of Health is Watching You! , New bounty on smokers helps GPs balance their books, Smoking ban health miracles



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