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An NHS trust is hiring a climate-change manager amid a pandemic – so should we clap for Greta too?

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @WritesSweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @WritesSweeney

An NHS trust is hiring a climate-change manager amid a pandemic – so should we clap for Greta too?
NHS workers have been turned into saints during the pandemic, and the frontline work of nurses, doctors and carers is rightfully celebrated – but should the "sustainability manager" they are now looking for be similarly exalted?

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Britain has been in turmoil. Accusations and rebuttals have flown back and forth across the political and media spectrum.

The one uniting factor was everyone backing the NHS. Indeed, the nation pauses to clap for its staff every Thursday night at 8pm.
Now, some are questioning that support, after it became public knowledge that one of the NHS trusts is seeking a program manager for sustainability.

The advert includes the terms "climate emergency," "climate action" and "climate breakdown."

The salary is £44,053 per year – and whatever your feelings on climate change, it appears that the NHS in Newcastle, which has six hospitals, values Greta Thunberg's teachings above its own frontline staff's frustrations.

A fully qualified nurse starts on £24,907, with even charge nurses and sisters earning significantly less than £40k. A porter, meanwhile, is looking at a measly £18k for 37.5 hours of hard graft per week.  The numbers don't lie.

The sympathy generated for the NHS because of the lack of PPE for its workers, and the risks they are taking to save lives while their funding is cut to the bone by the austerity-driven Tory Party, is being taxed by moves like this.

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If the NHS is making do with so little, how can they shell out this amount of money for someone to fiddle about on climate change? Surely, resources like that should have been invested in doing the actual job hinted at in the name 'National Health Service.'

Improving recycling, cutting down on emissions and saving electricity are all worthy goals, but the middle of a pandemic is not the time to be handing over serious cash for someone to shuffle paper and design spreadsheets for just a small part of the UK.

The NHS has been shouting from the rooftops and pleading poverty – but its annual budget is £140 billion in England, £13.2 billion in Scotland, £8.7 billion in Wales and £5 billion in Northern Ireland.
Even with those staggering sums, the British public was asked to entry the fray as Covid-19 took a grip. 750,000 people signed up to the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme and downloaded the app, but only around 3,500 tasks have been assigned in total thus far.

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You've no money, but you can hire climate-change desk-jockeys. You've no money, so you need ordinary people to pick up the slack. Something doesn't add up.

A cursory look at the NHS jobs board reveals positions on offer that include a head of equality, diversity and inclusion role on up to £66,823 at North Middlesex Hospital. This is the same hospital that issued a Covid-19 appeal, to which one benefactor – it turned out to be a footballer – donated £19,000. There is clearly something awry here.

It's a widely held opinion that public employees are out of touch to some degree. They don't grasp the concept of wealth generation in the same manner as those in the business community or who earn based on output. That's understandable, as they bring other skills, but at the same time, who is paying for their noble endeavors and careers?

Doctors are fairly remunerated for their work, earning significantly over the average salary in the UK. After their foundation years and at the beginning of their specialist training, they receive from £38,693 to £49,036. Consultants, meanwhile, are in six-figure territory.

So, where is this 'poor me' image coming from? It seems only nurses and auxiliary staff, such as porters, caterers and cleaners, legitimately have a gripe.

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Taxation drives the NHS – and most Britons would vehemently defend the service. But this news of the salaries and superfluous roles being created, while deaths reach 34,000 and millions struggle to pay their own bills, is going to spark an understandable backlash.

It's easy to do good and keep asking for more when someone else is picking up the bill. The NHS needs to look at itself in the mirror, as it could be about to lose the public's backing. And once that happens, it'll never get it back.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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