Wednesday, 21 November 2007

DoH pulls plug on MercuryHealth mobile scanners

Tuesday was a truly horrible day in the West Midlands.
I took a day out to attend a radiologists' meeting at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham, only 70 odd miles away, and spent a total of 5 hours on the road driving (or sitting in stationary traffic) in heavy rain and half an hour queuing for lunch for the sake of around 4 hours of lectures.
I did, however, end the day a happy man. During the meeting, Tom Goodfellow, a radiologist in Coventry, announced that the Department of Health had terminated the contract with Mercury Health to provide "2nd wave diagnostics" scans in the West Midlands. Care UK, the company which bought Mercury Health earlier this year for £77million, makes a curt announcement on their website. The news was also briefly covered in the Guardian.
I have written about the Mercury Health contract before on this blog. The second wave diagnostics program was a central pillar in support of Nulabour's plans to close down District General Hospitals (DGHs). The plan was to divert the easier scans to the private sector leaving the complex, difficult and unprofitable scans to the DGH x-ray departments. These would not support continued investment in staff and equipment and within the five year period of the contract most DGH x-ray departments would have become obsolete. Modern medicine demands on-site access to MRI and CT for a DGH to be viable so this would result in a downgrading or closure of the DGH.
The news was greeted with clapping and cheering from the 150 odd consultants and trainees at the meeting. As it happens, the radiologists at Heartlands Hospital were involved in the Mercury contract and we heard from the horse's mouth that the failed endeavor will cost the taxpayer £84 million in compensation payments. From the figures given to us by Mercury last month (see earlier blog) I would guess they have done a total of around 840 scans, costing the taxpayer £100,000 per scan compared to £200 which we charge for a private scan at uk-radiology. The reason the contact was canceled was the lack of demand. It seems that Mercury was only working at 5% of anticipated capacity.
Dr Ray is not one to gloat over Nulabour's discomfort caused by this pigheaded pursuit of political dogma against the advice of almost every radiologist in the UK, the National Audit Office and a House of Commons Select Committee on Health but I will make an exception in this case.

Ya boo sucks-- We told you so!! Ha Ha Ha!!


Garth Marenghi said...

sweet! must have been enjoyable viewing

PhD scientist said...

Stay sharp, Dr Ray, remember this "setback" for the Brave New World of private provision will probably get blamed on the "resistance to change" of consultants not wanting to refer to the private provider.

If the ideology lives on, the madness may be back.

PhD scientist said...

sorry - should have said resistance to change of "doctors", rather than specifically consultants.

PS Our local "community hospital" has a private provider mobile scanning "container" parked permanently outside.

Anonymous said...

As one of the 250 casualties of the demise of the West Midlands Diagnostic Wave 2 procurement I would like to add my comments on yours.Perhaps because you are full of your own self importance you have forgotten that there is real people involved in this carnage. I ask you as you seem so informed on this , how to look in the eyes of 250 members of staff who have dedicated part of thier lives to this project only to be given notice as an early Christmas present. They are innocent parties and comments such as yours are quite honestly distasteful, inappropriate and more fitting to a school yard conversation. Rant on all you like about political decisions , you obviously have the free time to do that but for goodness sake have some decency and intelligence not to gloat on what is a very very traumatic time for the human casulaties of all this.

Disgruntled patient said...

I was a patient attending the Nuffield Hospital Hereford where I understand you have private reporting rights as you reported my X-rays and scan.Surely you are also contributing to the private sector. I am aghast at the tone of your report.I understand that should Mercury have been given an opportunity to suceed in their venture it would have had a negative impact on the contents of your personal finances. I am unimpressed with your arguments and saddened by your attitude to what appears to be a complete waste of public funding and dreadful human damage.I put your actions down to being completely institutionalised and reluctant to accept a challenge.

casualty !!!! said...


84 MILLION ..... DON'T BE SO STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
5% .............A FAIRY TALE
840 SCANS .......JUST GET IT RIGHT WILL YOU???????????????


Anonymous said...

My daughter has just shown me this nonsense. I too have had a body scan by this company.I have had a bad back for years and have been pushed from pillar to post in the NHS. Last week I had a letter from a so called head doctor who said that I would have to wait another 6 months for this scan to be done.My family have since said that they would club together and pay for a private scan for my Xmas present. This was to be done by the same head doctor and would cost hundreds of pounds.
Thank goodness my GP heard of this mercury company. I had a phone call from a lovely man on the monday, he asked me where I would like to have the back scan and my appointment was booked for the weds.I rang my GP this morning who has already got my results and I am seeing him monday morning.
I or my family have not had to pay anything. Surely this quick scan was the best Xmas present I could have had.
Thank you to the mercury company.I am sorry to hear that the govt has stopped the service but I hope you will still be around in my area in the future.

from Anne Beaver

Dr Ray said...

Anonymous- I am sorry you have lost your job but no one forced you to go and work for Mercury. Presumably you did because you thought you could make more money than working for the NHS. If you are an MRI radiographer get in touch as we always need good workers in our unit in Hereford.
"Disgruntled patient"- Yes I do work in the private sector and you will see that I provide patient choice and improve the service for NHS patients. The 2nd wave diagnostics plan would have destroyed jobs in the local DGHs and reduced patient choice. Despite the government attempt to drive a wedge between primary and secondary care the GPs chose to support the local hospital rather than use Mercury which is why they failed
"Casualty" My figures for the compensation UK care will receive are from someone working at a very high level in the company. When the termination of the contract was announced UK care shares fell by 25% but now that the compensation details are clear they have recovered the losses fully. The 840 scans was a round number to make the calculation easier. I think it was probably less based on Mercury's own first 3months activity (including the one CT scan!!). I understand UK care dispute the 5% figure too- they claim they are doing 10% of what the government are paying them for but they started scanning in June rather than April as per contract so this may explain the difference. Still 10% isn't great is it.
No wonder you all regret losing your jobs- it sounds like you all sat around drinking coffee waiting for the occasional patient to turn up.

Anonymous said...

I left radiography after 10 years in the NHS due to the way patients and staff were treated by such misinformed dinosaurs as yourself. The reason I rejoined radiography is that mercury were supplying an entirely patient focussed service. You see it is not just a business venture as private work is for you it is entirely patient focussed. We have striven against may restrictions to get the service up and running and if you were to check your figures again you would see a huge leap in the patients we now see.
Attitudes like yours now make me see that my initial assessment of the NHS is correct and I will never work in it again.
Please adopt a more sensitive attitude and wonder what the government may do to you one day.
Yours Sincerely - another of the 250 casualties who were trying to improve patient care and treatment in the UK.

Francis said...

Dr. Ray... Your an ASSHOLE!!! Try to use your head, the company just started and has been picking up for the last few months... What kind of logic do you have? You didn't became a doctor overnight right?... IT NEEDS A LITTLE TIME ., atleast a year for any business to be known and get established!! With all the restrictions, you cannot blame private providers to not achieved a years' quota, its just been 4 months!! Or maybe your just thinking about your cut? Or what hidden agenda do you have? Your full or shit and everything you do is about yourself and your GREED... Its gonna be you that will be cooked soon!!! ASSHOLEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Dr Ray said...

Anonymous 2.
Our waiting time for a non-urgent NHS scan is 3-4 weeks and our private scans cost £200 if that wait is too long. The income keeps the NHS x-ray department viable because the income we get from the DOH is inadequate to run the scanners as we would wish.
Mercury should have driven their scanner to your house with what they are being paid to scan each patient. Each scan done by Mercury undermines the viability of the local hospital who could have done the scans if they were not being starved of funds to pay the likes of Mercury.

Anonymous said...

you r truly an asshole,those comments are truly uncalled for,as one of those casualties i hope that when the NHS makes more cut backs lets hope they pick on your job so you can see how it feels.Perhaps you could get a one way ticket somewhere and the world would be a nicer place.MERRY XMAS.

Dr Ray said...

"Francis"- thank you for your comments. If you wish to shorten "you are" it is written as "you're" and not "your". The correct usage of "your" is as I have used it in the first line. Did they employ many illiterates like you in Mercury? I did hear from an insider that some of the people doing scans were not qualified and the forms were being countersigned by qualified radiographers.

Anonymous said...

I am the first anonymous entry and I dispute your comment on salary. I chose it because I respected their values and they were an excellent employer,something I never experienced in my 10 years within the NHS. As for coffee I have drank vast quantities of it over the last 2 years working on this project most late at night or very early morning to ensure that we had all clinical policies and procedures in place, we were under intense scrutiny and we were going to get it right!! we have all worked so hard to make this work. Yes staff are angry , because nobody derved this at all , and nobody deserves your facitious pathetic comments. I ask my other colleagues waste their time on your trivia. You are misinformed, I am informed and you have got your figures wrong. Please try and have some compassion for families we have relocated from all over the world, honest staff who have given up jobs in other parts of the uk , both clinical and in the service industry. There are so may casualties from direct employees to suppliers. it's not their fault that the DH has reacted in such a bizaar way.

janet said...

Dr Ray

For the record all staff underwent an intense "Competency Assessment " program over 1 month. All staff have to pass this before any contact with patients. The course involved an OSCE, Courses and training by Cathy Westbrook and GE as well as mandatory assessments by very competent UK trained radiographers . the SME's within the DH has full clarity on our processes and signed off staff as competent. This never ever happens in small DGH's that you have such a passion for.You also work within the private sector so appreciate that this in not the normal practice of other private providers.
For your information we provide other services apart from MRI and CT and it is interesting that you only comment on the ones that directly affect you.


Dr Ray said...

Anonymous 1. I get no pleasure that you have lost your job but I am glad that Mercury has failed because every DGH in the West Midlands would have ultimately been downgraded to a cottage hospital if it had succeeded.
The investors and top management at Mercury won't be going short this xmas because the government has covered all their costs and 80%of anticipated income for 5 years. If they are shafting their workforce its not due to lack of money from the taxpayer.
The information I have is either from attending meetings hosted by Mercury or from Radiologists in the UK employed by Mercury.

Anonymous said...

First anonymous

For your information we do not employ any other radiologist in the UK apart from a Clinical Director thank you for disclosing your source, HOE radiologists do not work for CareUk and are not party to such sensitive information. Also for your information our commercial team are still working on a compensation claim which will not be released until it has due diligence . I suspect that the claim is a fraction of that announced by yourself.

Dr Ray said...

I only comment on what I know about. I don't even know if audiology is to continue- this seemed to be the most successful part of the service.
Mercury was very keen not to make the mistake of 1st wave diagnostics and be accused of poor quality. There was a big question mark over using Radiologists abroad but whether quality was good or not the destablisation of DGHs which need properly funded imaging departments to remain viable was the main risk.
Outsourcing most jobs means people in the UK lose jobs but the service is not lost. Outsourcing medical jobs means the training and local service will eventually be lost.

Anonymous said...

Well, well,well! As another member of the 250 staff to be asked in Care UK I would just like to say to you "Ray" person (is that your first name or surname by the way)? Probably not your real name at all as you have no idea what you are talking about, come and see us in action to see just how every and I do mean "every" patient that has been through our doors comments on how satisfied they are with our service. That is from the warm friendly welcolm they get when they come in the door to the good luck wishes they get when leaving. All my patients say how clean, warm and friendly the units (and staff)are. We provide a service early in the morning till late at night, they don't have to pay to park at their venues and they are impressed with the short wait for an appointment to the short wait for a diagnosis sent to their GP. The patients are the most important part of this carnage but also us as staff have really believed in this concept from the beginning, getting up at 5am, travelling far in all weathers and leaving the units sometimes at 10pm or 11pm. That is dedication for you, we clean, give cups of tea and talk to patients, quite frankly that are worried sick that they may be getting bad news but we try our utmost to take their minds off their worries (even for the short time they are with us) and I can assure you they get treated like the "Human Being" that they are and not just an NHS number. I have worked in the NHS for 14 years and I can tell you that I always stuck up for them when they got bad press but over the last 2years (before working for this company) I saw what was going on first hand and I was appalled, so much so, I won't work for the NHS again! As someone who was made redundant in Feb this year this is just the blow I didn't want to receive again but there are another 249 "human beings" with their own stories to tell and you are a discrace!!!
Hope you never have to struggle on £55 unemployment benefit for no fault of your own (and yes, I have worked all my life)!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1

Dr Ray (although we do know your identity) the question of radiologists competence has been a high priority for us, they to went through assessments mirroring the RCR assessments which presumably from your attitude and accuracy you have just achieved.Since that time they have undergone 100% QA performed by HOE. I am confident we reach the standards required and actually surpass them . Discrepancy meetings have indicated that on many occassions the errors fall within the UK expertise.
I feel perhaps if you acknowledge that the humage carnage is a disgrace this nonsense can stop once and for all.

disgruntled patient said...

Please do not patronise me. I may not have your qualifications but I have the " can you spot that there is a rabbit off" CSE. My neighbours son has just receieved his notice period and I will be lobbying my MP and showing him the comments on this blogg. I have absolute sympathy for those unsuspecting staff , I believe Anonymous 1 as he must have access to management information .I sincerely hope that they stay within this area and continue to provide such a good clinical service. Good luck everyone I hope it works out well and this radiologist eats his words. keep up the good work there are may ways to skin a cat and the NHS is just one of them, Anonymous 1 I would appreciate details

p.s please can I have a refund on my invoice

EX MERCURY said...


Rubenac Beaaaverr said...

I am a radiographer who came to UK to join the Mercury team . My line manager is Claire and throughout the whole induction period and competency testing she has shown me values that I have never experienced before. I have loved working as part of this team, I am proud that I have been involved. I go home with regret, a distrust of Uk politics and a firm belief that Uk radiologists are complete wankers (is that rude claire?). My apologys if it is.

Rubenac Beaaaverr Oberwalleran

Dr Ray said...

Many of us, in the medical profession, learned not to trust Nulabour some time ago. Now the poor folk at Mercury have learned too. But that's business for you!
I am deeply proud and honoured that so many people think that I may have contributed to the downfall of this ill-conceived, politically driven shambles but the honour must go to all the GPs who supported their local DGHs and refused to refer patients to Mercury and ensured its ultimate failure. Thank you all.

Anonymous said...

I hate to call you Dr OR Whatever you choose to call yourself.I am an indepedent observer and have taken time to read your comments/replies.
Am just pissed off to pieces on your method of argument.Even a layman will see ur jealousy over the unparralled success of the young project.It definitely was making you lose some quids and you are now happy that those patients will now be at the mercy of your incompetence.
If you are really a competent professional,I would be so pleased to see you tell us that this company is not providing quality scans but you even needed there 'good MRI radiographers in your hereford!' So u truly admit they are doing a nice job to the patients but you and your bad blood selfish radiologists were busy campaining against the success of the business.
If this lovely company [as my investigation has revealed]has lost this contract because of their incompetence,I will not only support the cancellation of the contract but their prosecution.But if this contract was lost because of the wrong and selfish information fed to GPs to scuttle the referrals,then you should go and hide your ugly head in shame.The only reason why they performed at about 10% capacity was that people like you will never refer or encourage other people to refer patients for reasons we now know ! I pity us patients who might probably die waiting for the NHS or getting a mediocre service from 'senseless'you !Watch it,this company will live to fulfil its mission of bringing patients back to good health...with or without the contract which has given you sleepless nites.From now onwards,please place public interest above personal u realize how many many travel to US and canada to get their scans done in companies like mercury health ?Posterity will judge you for leaving your life saving mission to fight a company with goodwill and proven commitment to give life to patients.Now you can be sure that not many patints will love to associate with a foolish,uncaring and political doctor cal ray.To mercuryhealth and staff :WELL DONE FOR A JOB WELL DONE,WE ARE PROUD OF YOU.WITH YOUR GOOD JOB,YOU WILL GO PLACES !!!

Anonymous said...

Peter M
you are disillusioned to think that we credit you with that. The team were upset that you did not show any sympathy for the innocent caught up in this , believe it or not we were geared to do an excellent job, we employed excellent people and we adopted excellent processes. Those Gp's that had the capacity to send to us did and appreciated the quality services. It is not the fault of unsuspecting staff that capacity was not as contracted it is a fault of the DH. You chose to react and rub salt into wounds , sympathy would have been a better tact. Arrogance and self centredeness is not attractive do not blame the team . They are hurt and angry and it is understandable. Perhaps in the future you will reflect before you proceed.I am proud of the team , I make no excuses for the comments . I actually feel that they were more professional than the person they were communicating to. We are not dead and gone but resilient. "watch this space"

Dr Ray said...

The reason the contract was canceled was that there was no demand for the service. We don't know about the quality because they never did enough scans to assess it and the plan to send the scans to Hungary for reporting was never put in action. I can vouch for the quality of the radiographers however since almost all were trained by the NHS.
I doubt whether Mercury saved many lives since they only accepted referrals of patients with nothing much wrong with them. Anyone seriously ill, such as people with suspected brain tumours were rejected by their referral criteria. I do know they diagnosed one brain tumour but the scan had to be repeated in an NHS hospital. Luckily, since Mercury hasn't been running long, they still had a scanner and a radiologist at the NHS hospital.
I don't know what you Mercury people want from me. You were quite happy to see me out of a job for the sake of your career but now you want sympathy because good sense has prevailed and Mercury has been shown the door.
We are running an extremely busy MRI service in Hereford and the only thing holding us back is a lack of radiographers. If any of you (even the ones who have been rude to me) want to join us and be employed by the NHS and make a real difference please get in touch. We particularly want to reduce our waiting list further by working evenings and weekends.
In February I even intend to go onto ebay and see if there are any "almost new" mobile scanners on auction

Anonymous said...

You have been talking to a group of staff who consist of endoscopists , radiographers , HCA's , cardiac physcians, logistics engineers and HCA's . I doubt a driver would be able to apply for a MRI post in your hospital. This was a multi modality service but not suprisingly it was radiology that enjoyed our demise. For your information and further publication the quality of the service has been assessed from day one. 100% QA in all modalities . unlike the NHS we are resolute that w whether we do one or 87,000 scans quality is paramount in all . Also hungarian radiologists have reported from day one, geography is irrelevant some have been based here and other are and have been reporting from day one in hungary.As for staffing only 7% of our staff are NHS trained , others have gained similar qualifications all over the world. All qualifications have been checked by the RCR, NMC and the HPC as well as this we have used NARIC to confirm standards.
of course we need secondary care for goodness sake, this was procured as a GP facing service , simple straight forward scans but we were sure to have to send clinically serious forward to seconadry care. We did that within the 2 hr time frame within the contract and always sent images on a CD . If you felt the absolute need to rescan then more fool you. HOE QA radiologists who have done 100% QA have admitted that the images were excellent and proptocols if anything perhaps over what was required
It appears that you have been grossly misinformed,

Claudette said...

Apply for a post working with you... I may be desperate at the moment but I have standards. The employer and the people I work with is important to me . Your attitude has been despicable, your arrogance intollerable , your professionalism questionable.I wish you luck in your recruitment because I do not want patients to suffer but I am afraid it's not for me and I suspect not my colleagues

simon- endoscopy said...

ebay will not be selling any scanners as despite the withdrawal of the contract we or indeed our competitors will be aroud for a very long time.

Dr Ray said...

Anonymous (last)
I can only comment on Radiology and I have no personal views on the staff employed by Mercury or on the quality of the scans although, it seems to me from the comments, that the writing skills of the employees leaves room for improvement.
My antagonism to 2nd wave diagnostics is the threat it represents to the system of DGHs and training in the UK. Its not just me and its not just diagnostics. Look at Dr Rants or Devils Kitchen blog today and they are making the same points. I didn't clap and cheer when I heard the news but many of the Consultant Radiologists and trainees in the West Midlands did.
The service Mercury was supposed to provide could have been provided by the existing scanners if the hospitals had the money to run them. We run our scanner some weekends and evenings using income I attract from private patients and our scanner was bought from money gifted to us by a private individual. We didn't have the easy guaranteed income and set up costs promised to Mercury and we are also paid less than Mercury for every NHS scan we do.
So I'm sorry if I don't sound sympathetic but the sooner parasites like Mercury are out of the system the happier I, and most of my colleagues, will be.

Anonymous said...

Dr Ray,
I am a West Midlands Consultant Radiologist and I would like to say that the Image quality within Mercury Health/ Care UK that I have experienced, is second to none. To my knowledge 2 Imaging cases have been found as clinically serious, the referrers been informed immediately,the images burnt onto CD and sent to the recieving hospital. I am a dilemma here as yes, they are making an impact on my patients but as a member of the caring profession I salute them.I don't believe that my Trust can or want deliver that service.

Dr Ray said...

Thank you Dr W.

You will notice I have never criticized the quality of the scans or the radiographers. I find this line of argument against the ISTCs unhelpful because they have the advantage of brand new equipment and sufficient staff to run it and if we look too hard we will discover that we all make mistakes now and then.
What I have objected to is the uneven playing field and the effect the diversion of NHS money to the private sector will have on the local NHS acute hospitals and prospects for UK radiologists and trainees. Perhaps you work in one of the Birmingham or Gloucester "centres of excellence" that just happen to be in Labour voting areas but where I work the closure of our DGH seems almost certain if companies like Mercury succeed.
I think the NHS can up their game and you may recall when the threat of Mercury was discussed by email about 18 months ago I was the radiologist who suggested that if all the NHS centres in the W. Mids. did three extra scans a day Mercury would have nothing left to do and would be given the boot.
We need to keep this up if we are to avoid another Mercury.

Anonymous said...

My congratulations to all staff who have commented here as most of you are using English as your second language, others perhaps anger and the odd sip of wine to drown your sorrows has led to the odd slip in vocabulary.Comments on your writing skills are inappropriate. Perhaps Dr Ray would like to respond to you in your first language. It has been a traumatic week for you all.
For your information Dr Ray most of these are overseas staff (due to the additionality clause on the contract).
Surely there must be a problem with your internal management that results in you not attracting staff.We managed to attract over 50competent clinical staff, , paid them no more than NHS rates and never once waived the additionality clause.
Could I suggest that you perhaps get in touch with Mercury regarding recruitment I understand there are 250 staff available. It would be a shame if "attitude" stood in the way of at least one of these professionals continuing what they set out to do and that is "improving the patient experience".
To date you have questionned their competence, their use of the English language and their integrity. They are victims of inept government policies that has lead both the private sector, its staff and suppliers into a terrible position. Your compensation claims are a nonsense as they have not been agreed and will only cover costs up to the here and now.Please do not rub salt in their wounds, toast what you believe is "success" privately and lets all get on with picking up the pieces and dealing with the human side of all this.

Dr Ray said...

Anonymous- a truly heartrending comment. Perhaps you would be interested in knowing English is my second language too but I have mastered it well enough for my x-ray reports to make some sort of sense.
The present government were keen to introduce competition into health care and Mercury were keen to make some money out of it. Competition cuts both ways and we won and you lost.
What do you want from me-sympathy?
Any radiographer willing and sufficiently qualified to work in an NHS hospital is free to contact our department in Hereford on Monday. They won't be working for me- they will be employed under NHS T&C. Now that Mercury is history we can start investing in the future of our department.

Anonymous said...

Dr Ray's face in this focal spot is a true representaion of yourself ! From your method of argument which does not really centre on objectivity but selfishness and greed,it really looks like you have got no grey mater in that empty skull.No wonder you had to hide your ugly eyes inside that dark spectacle !! Ha Ha Ha ! You know wat,I am a radiographer with mercuryhealth,I have worked in several places in the UK and I can authoritatively tell you that mercury is the place to be...Stop being jeaolous ray,with or without the DOH contract,we will still be out there saving patients from people of your ilk !
Am sure you must have included mercuryhealth in the body of ur x-ray reports lately,poor patients ha ha ha....

Anonymous said...

Sorry Dr Ray, I was never asking for sympathy, just asking you to consider that staff were doing their best and are victims of this mess. None of the staff that have written to you were reporting , non were receiving the salary you are receiving. All the staff were doing is trying to make a living doing something they believed in. You may believe you have won, although you earlier insist that it had nothing to do with you. You are truly someone who does not listen, is untruthful and arrogant.
I urge all staff to discontinue trying to talk to this idiot we are giving him a platform for him to boost his already inflated ego.Have your Brave New World . Thank goodness I am not part of it.

the a&e charge nurse said...

Dr Ray - I can't help noticing that most of the comments from the Mercury staff are context free.

By that I mean they appear to have minimal insight into the vicious war being waged by the DoH against front line NHS staff - the sort of stuff that has been highlighted time and again on excellent blogs like yours.

Look at the recent spate of redundancies and ward closures [associated with insolvent Trusts], not to mention the thousands of young doctors ruined by MTAS, or the alarming rate of nursing students unable to obtain posts after qualifying.

More recently you have highlighted the NuLab sham trying to pass itself off as a kosher consultation process - parrallels with disreputable one party states are almost impossible to avoid with tricks like these.

Unemployed Mercury staff may be angry with you but perhaps they need to realise that this is how the DoH treats people nowadays.

I wonder if their anger might be assuaged by the DoHs determination to shut down A&E departments, maternity units and paediatric services - not to mention their bizarre plan for Tesco [and other supermarket outlets] to take over primary care services ?

Curiously none of the Mercury people seem to be comforted by the fact the UK has a shortage of radiographers, and that providing they are not drunk [at interview] or have not murdered anybody recently the majority would probably find NHS jobs tomorrow, assuming of course they can hack the relentless demand, and ever present threat of services being handed over to the private sector.

Dr Ray said...

Interesting comment, last anonymous.
I hardly ever get comments on my blog so I assumed the comments from staff and possibly fictitious satisfied patients were coming from the Mercury Mobile Rebuttal Unit, mis-spellings and all.
You chose to personalize this. My glee was directed at the failure of Nulabours policy not at the individual misfortune of your employees.
Astute business people demand a premium when dealing with Nulabour, ever since they stole private investors' ownership of Railtrack. Tribal Group, who previously owned Mercury saw the writing on the wall and sold out at huge profit and are still getting lucrative work from Nulabour.
I doubt whether Care UK went into this with their eyes shut and will come out of it well compensated, unlike their employees. Your company's failure to make adequate provision for its staff if the business failed is your fault and greed - not mine.
If you had succeeded I, and many hundreds of NHS staff currently working in DGHs, would have been looking for work and competing for jobs at Eastern Eropean rates of pay from companies such as Mercury.
I am glad you have failed and your employees should look to your negotiators for someone to blame when they get their P45.
Care UK must have been so blinded by the prospect of making a quick buck out of Nulabours financial incompetence that they left all the staff completely unprotected in the event of a setback.
Please keep posting, Mercury employees. Unfortunately the postings are revealing a level of command of English which few of us appreciated was so poor for a specialty that relies on clear communication at all levels.

Dr Ray said...

Thank you A&E charge nurse. An astute and valuable contribution as always. I was getting a bit lonely dealing with the Mercury Rebuttal Unit.
You are correct- there is a shortage of radiographers in the NHS because, unlike Mercury, we can't offer them a company car to come and work with us and no-one in their right minds would undergo the prolonged training if they were not sure of the prospects of a job in the NHS at the end. And, as you say, the job is hard and relentless and now also considered disposable by Nulabour.

25 November 2007 10:49

Claudette said...

Its "Eastern European" Dr Ray. it's evident that all parties require spell check here! tut !!tut!!!

kettle and black spring to mind .

Dr Ray said...

"Its "Eastern European" Dr Ray."
In this context "its" is a shortened version of "it is" and therefore has an apostrophe i.e. it's.
There is also a difference between a typo error and an inability to write sufficiently clearly to portray the meaning of a sentence.

Claudette said...

Eropean !! oops!!!

as for other comments, spelling, grammer errors or not, I think you got the message.

The sound of reason said...

Keep up the hard work Dr ray, always tell the truth and fear no one. Least of all, don't worry about those self-serving midgets out there, they stink!

Anonymous said...

I can't take much more of this bollocks. I'm a final year student and I live in terror of the ghastly potentialities that await the profession and the service I have aspired to become part of.

I feel I'm being bundled into practice in a time where the NHS - both body and soul, practice and policy - is sliding towards the abyss and I'm being carried with it. The private companies muscling in on the NHS have their eye only on the main chance and not on what is right for the public of this country. God damn them for their selfishness and God damn the government for abetting them.

I've spent nearly six years training and I can't stop now, not after investing so much - even though I sometimes think I should. 'I am stepped in blood so deep that to turn back would be as tedious as to go o'er' - or something like that.

I don't even know my own career structure anymore - private sector workers have far more control over their destiny.

Oh well, whinging will never get me into that coveted FTSTA position back to the books for me.

Best of luck with them Dr Rant. You know you need it.

Anonymous said...

I mean Dr Ray of course...

Anonymous said...

Another prime example of a Radiologist so far up his own Beaver he has lost touch with reality.
Oh I forgot it comes with the Part II FRCR along with the confidence that noeone knows better than you and a complete lack of tact (not in all cases , there are some good ones out there). It must be very hard to fit in your day's work( you know the one the NHS actually pay you for under the Consultant Contract) plus sessions in the Private Sector and find time to fill the internet with your brand misinformation.
The only reason people like you did not want this scheme is that it could have threatened your cosy living and shortened patients waiting times (reduced demand for the Private Sector) and more shockingly given patients a choice! Oh we cant have that now can we ? The next thing is they will want to be treated within 18 weeks.

Dr Ray said...

"It must be very hard to fit in your day's work( you know the one the NHS actually pay you for under the Consultant Contract) plus sessions in the Private Sector and find time to fill the internet with your brand misinformation".
Yes it is but some of us have an extraordinary capacity for hard work and are willing to sacrifice our free time for our profession. That is how we became doctors in the first place. You shouldn't judge people by your own standards because they are undoubtably inferior.

Anonymous said...

GOD is good that there is independent sector exist. They exist because there is a purpose, for patient's to have choice.
i am a patient who's waiting to be scan @ NHS hospital for about 4 months. a week ago my GP phoned me and given me a choice if i want to have my scan with care uk. and i said yes. then after a day or two care uk diagnostic support center phoned me in and offered one of their site near where i lived. take's only 5 days and i got my scan.

PhD scientist said...

The private sector has allowed some people to get their scans quicker. I have no problem with that. The waiting times for non-urgent scans are clearly still a problem in parts of the UK, which needs tackling, and I have no problem with people having add-on insurance to allow them to go private if they don't want to wait. I would also like to think that if I needed a scan on a wonky but not crippling knee I would not have to wait eight months.

I suspect all the above makes me a fairly typical UK "consumer".

But... I am also a taxpayer. It seems self-evident to me that the ISTCs and large-private-for-profit-health-corporate- set-ups were being paid considerably more than the NHS to do the work (here scans), AND being guaranteed payment even if there was no work for them to do.

How exactly is that a good use of my tax money?

Whether the people who worked for the private provider were doing a good job clinically and in their patient-facing skills was not relevant to this central question of whether it was a good way to run the need for scans and/or reduce waiting lists. It is hard to believe that giving sweetheart deals to operations like Mercury was really a more-cost-effective option than putting extra money into the existing NHS units. Not to mention the effect on UK training of farming out all the low-complexity
stuff trainees cut their teeth on.

Why do the people who worked for the private provider think it is economically possible to pay them more, give them add-on benefits, have brand new equipment, have them see less people/unit time than the NHS, AND return a profit to the parent company's shareholders?

Answer: because the payment for the scans was over the odds, and it was the UK taxpayer picking up the bill.

I am fine with "local private enterprises", like the old GP out-of-hours co-ops, or, say, the radiologists in any area forming a local co-op business to "hire" NHS scan time out of hours to do low-risk private work. Clearly it is a daft waste of resource to have £ 1M scanners working only 8 am-6 pm. BUT... I trust for-profit US-style healthcare conglomerates about as far as I can throw them.

Dr Ray said...

"GOD is good that there is independent sector exist. They exist because there is a purpose, for patient's to have choice.
i am a patient who's waiting to be scan @ NHS hospital for about 4 months. a week ago my GP phoned me and given me a choice if i want to have my scan with care uk. and i said yes. then after a day or two care uk diagnostic support center phoned me in and offered one of their site near where i lived. take's only 5 days and i got my scan.
Anonymous- you're not Eastern European perchance? Hasn't your managing director told you to stop showing yourself up by posting on my site?

The scandal of long waiting times for scans is due to underfunding. Despite the money going into the NHS little gets to the front line after companies like Mercury have lined their pockets and many of the NHS scanners put in had no extra funding for staff. To run a scanner 9-5 in the NHS needs 1.5 radiologists, 2-3 radiographers and a helper. Around £250,000 per year for staff and around £100,000 per year maintenance.
In Hereford we are trying to attract private patients to raise sufficient money to run our scanner for NHS patients and we are succeeding with an NHS wait of around 3 weeks. We get paid less than Mercury, we do more complex scans and we put money back into the NHS. The taxpayer didn't even pay for our scanner which was given to us by a philanthropist who saw the value in having a local service.
If we shut down the local DGH goes down with us as no DGH can function without a sophisticated x-ray department now. The same will happen throughout the UK. That won't matter for the sort of person who needs a quick easy operation which can be done in the back of a shipping container but where will the public go for geriatric, paediatric and maternity care and other aspects of healthcare which won't be so attractive to short-term investors?

Anonymous said...

Hello Doctor Ray. I have gained a wealth of experience within Mercury. Bringing my transferable skill set from the private non medical sector. I very much hope I can be of help in supporting you to improve current standards within health care. No doubt your own team need to raise the bar, and we can all learn from sharing best practice. I look forward to hearing from you. Penny chooth.

Dr Ray said...

Penny- email me on info@uk-radiology
Regards Xavier

Anonymous said...

I've just discovered this blog, and would like to comment, somewhat belatedly. I'm a radiographer with 10 years of MRI experience, mostly in the NHS but with a couple of years in the private sector, on mobile scanners. When I worked for the private sector we scanned mainly at NHS hospitals with no MRI scanner of their own. I believe the radiographers provided a good service to the patients, no better or worse than the NHS. However, I was involved in preparation for the first wave diagnostics plan and saw for myself the deceit that the private sector was planning to use on the NHS. The ONLY priority was profit. The scans and sequences were reduced to provide the bare minimum of diagnostic information, the fittest and most straight-forward patients hand picked, leaving the NHS to deal with the difficult, disabled and ill patients. This would lead to high throughput on the private scanners and reduced throughput on the NHS, and yet there were plans to directly compare services to further denigrate the NHS. I saw NHS radiographers, managers and patients lied to by the private sector, and unqualified staff recruited - my conscience would not allow me to stay any longer. I returned to the NHS to run an MRI unit, and have never been happier. Our first priority is the patient, not profit. We provide a service which is recognised as first class by patients, GPs and the hospital consultants. I'd like to think that the first wave did the NHS a small favour by reducing the number of outstanding scans to a reasonable level (though this would have been achieved through the NHS had the money been given to us and not the private sector)and that the PCTs have been canny enough to "use and abuse" Mercury et al. I do believe that the future of diagnostics is safe in the NHS, which I didn't until the almost nationwide rejection of the second wave, and I believe that we in the NHS provide a much higher standard of care FOR ALL than the private sector.
And by the way, we advertised for an extra MRI radiograoher recently to extend our service from the current 10 hours a day to 12. I received a large number of applications from Mercury staff, many of which were almost unintelligible. We shortlisted the three best applications, and none of them showed us the courtesy of turning up for interview.

Dr Xavier Ray said...

Thank you anonymous. It is nice to get confirmation of what most of us suspected had been going on from someone with first hand experience.
We have been advertising for MR radiographers too and I was surprised by the poor applications from Mercury. I spoke to another group who were recruiting and they found the same. The did have some good people, mainly from Australia and S. Africa by the looks of it, but they were vastly outnumbered by people of very inferior ability.
I wonder whose name appeared on the scan?

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