I am sure I was not the only person to have been annoyed by the questioning style of the Sky journalist during Matt Hancock’s press briefing last evening. The Department of Health was in self-congratulatory mood having traced the final positive Brazilian variant case. The questioner was irritated by the celebratory mood.

Tracking one person in sixty five million; someone who had returned a test without providing contact details was a bit of a challenge from which a lot will have been learnt. But the chap from Sky was not a bit impressed. Am I correct in recalling that it is his colleagues who are off air for breaching the Covid guidelines at a birthday party? There are many out there who expect standards in life from others that they could never achieve in their own lives.

I feel compelled to watch these briefings but hate them in equal measure. One needs the mute button in hand as certain journalists names are called. Neither the Prime Minister nor the majority of his cabinet are the best communicators but one has to admire their ability not to retaliate to some of the journalistic provocation seeking to turn any success into a disaster. When times are hard and the challenges are great most humans need encouragement. One wonders how much time in a busy day is spent preparing for these confrontations. I would have left the briefings to the scientists

These briefings remind me of the various committees and boards I have sat on. There has regularly been someone who spends the whole meeting rehearsing a question in their mind. This is to be the moment they can demonstrate their incisive intellect but they have been so distracted in their mental rehearsal that they have not heard the previous speaker make the same point.

One minister with better presentation skills, the Chancellor, appears to have shot himself in the foot this week on the subject of nurses’ pay. This is not an issue which is normally a budget announcement but of course the allocation for such a massive budgetary item would have to be in the small print.

NHS pay is decided by Independent Pay Review Bodies which report later in the year. For many years I compiled and presented evidence to the Review Body in my own profession. We always doubted its independence. The prospect of an OBE for the members took care of that. So the hours of work, surveying and collecting data always felt to be a waste of time but had to be done. The Government’s counter evidence always recommended a small increase or none at all. In times of inflation the public sector had to set an example of restraint, in times of recession there was no money so years passed during which pay slipped behind the private sector.

The budgeted 1% is no surprise. This year however it is pretty certain that the recommendations of the Review Body will be for a much higher increase, especially for those ICU staff whose experience has been unimaginable. That will be hard for the DoH to refuse.

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