Mr James Rose

I started working for the Confederation of British Surgery on the 1st January 2020. As many OTSIS members are aware, I spent the past decade servicing the needs of the surgical community in the indemnity world. Understanding the risks of the surgical profession from both NHS and private sector was the perfect springboard to tackle membership of a professional association for surgeons. However, it did nothing to prepare me for trying to build that vision during COVID.

I must admit that I had made an incorrect assumption about trade unions before I started the role. Being a child of the eighties, the term ‘trade union’ conjured up images: sooty faced miners; Arthur Scargill shouting into a megaphone; and police in riot gear. Trade unions, I thought, must have a political bias. Having spent a large portion of my career working for commercial organisations, I wanted to be free to embrace lessons I had learned in the private sector and I found this idea of being confined to the political discourse to be limiting, if you are striving to be both progressive and relevant. I am pleased to say my assumption was wrong.

In my professional experience, the modern surgeon is a highly intelligent, complex individual who thinks differently from much of the population. Surgeons have a truly diverse skillset: scientist, businessperson, healthcare professional, leader. They cross paths with every segment of our society. And all are trying to wear these hats whilst juggling the needs of a personal life, to achieve some sort of work / life balance.

So, what does a modern trade union seek to deliver to this most unique and vital of professional classes? Transparency, problem solving and a commitment to do the right thing. Throwing stones for the sake of it and listening to the sound of our own voice, we will leave to other ineffective organisations. We want to tackle the real problems as we see them post-COVID: the P.M.I’s; Discretionary Awards and WLI payments standardisation; increasing SPI’s to name a few. We want to highlight examples of NHS units across the UK that are working well, where personnel are both happy and high-achieving, and commend Trusts who have adopted a more mature approach. We want to embrace and draw attention to positivity and be prepared to consider unconventional solutions to problems.  That is not to say that it is a purely ‘happy clappy’ affair. Sadly, sometimes negativity is the only option. I was once asked in a job interview in the software industry who was my favourite fictional leader. “Captain Kirk from Star Trek”, I said. The interviewer asked why, to which I risked a non-serious reply: “Because he always uses diplomacy, charm and tact to solve problems. If that fails … total and unrelenting violence.” The interview panel descended into hysterical laughter and when they recovered, told me that the job was mine and could I start ASAP.  The point is that a trade union looking for a viable solution for its members might have no choice in some situations but conflict. 

We now live in a world where if a business case supports its use, technology can replace human involvement. This is particularly true in healthcare. It remains to be seen if the role of the modern medical trade union is to do more than just help support workers’ transitioning rights, as human job roles change radically.  In whatever manner the next 25 years pans out, CBS commitment will be steadfast to supporting its membership achieve fair and appropriate rights, remuneration and working conditions in public or private settings.

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