Yes Minister (1980–1984): Season 2, Episode 1 - The Compassionate Society - full transcript

When the opposition challenges the Minister's claims in the House that administrative personnel in the health sector have been reduced by 11%, he too quickly agrees to an independent ...

- What is it today, sir?
- The Ministry.

All morning on Health Service

A chap just now on the radio

said the trouble with health,
education and transport

is that people in Government
go to private hospitals

and send their kids
to private schools.

Comedy programme, was it?

And go to work
in chauffeur-driven cars.

Think there's something in it, sir?

If you and Sir Humphrey
went to work on a number 27...

Quite impracticable!

We work long enough hours as it is,
without having to wait at bus stops.

- You'd need more efficient buses.
- Certainly would.

Yes, that's what he was saying.

Same with the Health Service.
You a member of BUPA, sir?

- Anything on the radio, Roy?
- "Yesterday in Parliament".

Don't bother...

Mr Lanford,
opposition member for Birmingham,

asked the Administrative
Affairs Minister, James Hacker,

about reducing administrators
in the Health Service.

We have already achieved
a reduction of 11.3 %

in administrative staff

and are actively pursuing
further economies.

Would you explain
how his assurance to the House

squares with this minute
from his own department?

Then Mr Lanford dramatically
produced a paper.

I quote,
"If admin staff were reclassified

from administrative
to technical...

and the comparison changed
from the financial to calendar year,

then the figures will show
a fall of 11.3 %".

Would the Minister care to comment
on this shabby deception?

Bit of a googly, sir.

I... I...

I have no knowledge of the document
you're brandishing.

I shall give
the file reference to the Minister

in exchange for an assurance
of a full independent enquiry.

I will give that assurance.

The House
read the Scottish Fisheries'Bill...

That's a bit rough, innit?
"A full independent enquiry"!

- You were dropped in it there.
- I think I got away with it.

Lucky they didn't ask you
about that new hospital, sir.

They finished it 15 months ago,
and it's still got no patients.

The DHSS can't afford to staff it.

It's got staff, 500 administrators.

- Just no patients.
- Who told you?

My mate Charlie,
a driver for the Health Secretary.

- I'm appalled!
- So am I.

The incompetence of it!

I can't think what came over you.

I beg your pardon!

- A full independent enquiry.
- Humphrey, that's not what I meant.

- But you mentioned incompetence.
- Yours, Humphrey, yours!

- Mine?
- You dropped me into it?

We can't foresee a small omission
from the brief, but a full enquiry?

I don'twant an enquiry, but if
you're drowning and thrown a rope...

That wasn't a rope, it was a noose!

You should've stood up
for the department!

I prepared thoroughly
for yesterday's Question Time,

but nowhere was the suggestion
you'd juggled the figures

so I'd mislead the House.

You wanted the figures reduced?
So we reduced the figures!

- Yes, but not the administrators.
- Of course not.

- That's not what I meant.
- Minister, one isn't a mind-reader!

- You said reduce them, so we did.
- And another thing:

How did this get out?
Another leak?

This isn't a department,
it's a colander!

How can we govern responsibly,
if back benchers get all the facts?

- The enquiry gives us some time.
- So does a time-bomb.

- Is there a disposal squad?
- Disposal squad?

Couldn't we get the independent
enquiry to exonerate us?

- Do you mean rig it?
- No, no, no, no!

Well... yes.


It depends on who the chairman is.

- He absolutely has to be sound.
- Sound?

He will knowwhat is required.
He will perceive the implications.

He will have a sympathetic insight
into the problems.

In short, he will be "sound".

You mean... bent?

No, of course not!

He will be a man
of broad understanding.

How about... a retired politician?

And unimpeachable integrity.

Yes, I see what you mean.

- A businessman?
- Oh, really!

- An academic?
- No, no, no.

- Who've you got in mind?
- Perhaps a retired civil servant.

- Good thinking, Humphrey.
- Sir Maurice Williams.

Might not he be too independent?

- Well, he's hoping for a peerage.
- Not through this?

No, but the right finding
will earn him Brownie points!

- Brownie points?
- They all add up towards the badge!

- Well, Sir Maurice it is.
- Thank you, Minister.

Thank you... Brown Owl.

Good morning, Bernard.

- Two points, the Cuban refugees.
- Not that again?

It's about our refusal
to do any more for them.

It's not my fault, it's the Treasury.
You can't beat the Treasury!

I shall say nothing.

One more public humiliation and I'll
become a political refugee myself.

- And the other point?
- The alleged empty hospital.

As I warned you, the driver's network
is not wholly reliable.

- Roy's wrong.
- Thank heavens forthat!

- How did you find out?
- The private secretaries' network.


In fact, there are only 342
administrative staff at the hospital.

The other 170 are porters, cleaners,
laundry workers, cooks, etc.

And medical staff?

Oh, none of them.

- None?
- No!

We are talking
about St Edward's Hospital?

Yes. It's brand-new and fully-staffed.

Unfortunately, there were cutbacks,

so there was no money
for medical services.

A hospital with over 500 non-medical
staff and no patients?

- There's one patient.
- One?

The deputy administratorfell over
scaffolding and broke his leg.

Good God!

Thank heavens I wasn't asked
about this! Why hasn't it got out?

It's been contrived
to look like a building site,

and so far no one's realised
it's operational!

You know, scaffolding, skips,
the normal thing?

Normal? I'd better look at it
before the opposition does.

Yes, it's surprising
the press haven't found out.

Fortunately, most journalists
are so incompetent,

they wouldn't know
today is Wednesday.

It's actually Thursday, Minister.

Let's sit down there.

Why is your Minister interested
in this hospital?

He's greatly concerned
that it has no patients.

- It takes all sorts.
- Yes.

- Evening.
- Good evening.

How can there be patients
when it has no nursing staff?

- Thank you.
- Splendid.

- Sir Humphrey?
- Thank you.

We've found at the DHSS
that it takes time to get things going.

First of all, you have to sort out
the smooth running of the hospital.

Having patients around
would be no help at all.

They'd just be in the way.

- Tell him this is the run-in period.
- Yes, yes, the run-in period.

How long is the run-in period
going to last?

My Minister's agreed
to an independent enquiry.

- You knowwhat I think about that.
- Yes, I know, but...

We are going to get
some patients in to St Edward's...


Aren't we?

It's possible.

Certainly our present intention.

In a year or two.

Probably... when the financial
situation has eased up a bit.

Not till then?

How can I open 40 newwards
when I'm closing everywhere else?

- Treasury wouldn't wear it.
- My Minister may want to shut the place.

Impossible! What about the unions?

- Are the unions active there yet?
- Good point.

Remember that fire brand agitator
at Southwark Hospital?

Billy Fraser, odious man.
Could be useful.

Time he was moved on.

The Health Service is an advanced
case of galloping bureaucracy!

Oh, certainly not galloping!

A gentle canterat the most.

- Instances flood into this office.
- From whom, Minister?

MPs, constituents,
doctors, nurses, the public.

Trouble makers!

- The public?
- They're the worst.

Listen to this.

"Stethoscope requisition:
Due to current situation,

it is not possible to issue
the extra stethoscopes applied for.

We can, however,
supply longertubes

for your existing stethoscopes".

- Well?
- Doesn't that strike you as odd?

- Lf they have long tubes...
- No, no.

No, not longer stethoscopes,
MORE stethoscopes.

If they had really long tubes,

the doctor could stand in one place
and listen to all the chests.

What about nurses' uniforms?

"Apparently the latest
consignment of nurses' coats

is made of a see-through material;
nurses issued with these

are requested to report
to the Directorof Uniform Surveillance,

who will assess
the extent of the problem".

- Nice work if you can get it.
- Humphrey, I'm serious!

"Please note that the soft toilet
rolls are for patients not staff.

It would appear that staff have
been using the soft toilet rolls

for one reason or another".

"St Stephen's Mortuary
will be closed over Christmas.

During the holiday,
medical staff are to cooperate

in keeping pressure
off this department".

A very civil and reasonable request.

You think the rest of the year
doctors work hard to keep it busy?

These are a few isolated examples.

The Health Service is as efficient
as the Government allows it.

The figures speak for themselves.

In ten years, the number of
administrators has risen by 40,000.

The number of hospital beds
has fallen by 60,000.

The annual cost of the Health
Service has gone up by ?1.5 billion!

If only British industry
could match this growth record.

You think spending
more money on fewer patients

so we can employ
more administrators

is a good way of spending
the taxpayer's money?


This money is solely
to make sick people better.

No, no, no, Minister.

It is to make everybody better.

Better for showing the extent
of their care and compassion.

You see, when money is allocated
to the Health orSocial Services,

Parliament and the countryfeel...

Purified. Absolved. It is a sacrifice.

Dreadful claptrap!

After the sacrifice, nobody questions
what happened to the offering.

The public does care
if it's misspent.

They care it's not seen
to be misspent.

That's not true. Look at the uproar
overmental hospital scandals.

My point exactly.

Those abuses had been going on
happily for years.

Nobody was concerned
what was being done with their money.

What outraged them
was being told.

A cynical smokescreen!

Do we not agree there's no point
in a hospital run solelyforthe staff?

- That's not how I would express it.
- It's how I would.


- How would you express it?
- At the end of the day,

one of a hospital's prime functions
is patient care.


Until we have the money
for nursing and medical staff,

it's a function we can't pursue.
In 18 months orso...

- 18 months?
- We can open some wards.

No, it's got to be now.

I suppose we could form
an inter-departmental committee

to examine the feasibility
of monitoring a proposal

for admitting patients earlier.

- How long would that take to report?
- Not long.

- How long?
- About 18 months.

I suggestwe get rid
of all the staff there

and use the money to open
closed wards in other hospitals.

When we can afford it, we open
St Edward's with medical staff.

Do that and you'll delay
the opening for patients for years.

You talk as if the staff
have nothing to do!

- What do they do?
- Really, Minister!

There's a large number
of extremely busy departments.

Firstly, the Contingency Department
forfires, strikes, airraids,

nuclearwar, epidemics,
food or water poisoning.

In such a crisis, the hospital
is a key centre for survival.

Then, the Data and Research

conducting a full-scale demographic
survey of the catchment area.

We have to anticipate the future
requirements for maternity,

geriatrics, paediatrics
and the male/female balance.

Thirdly, there's
Finance - projected accounts,

balance sheets
and cash-flow budgets.

Then, the Purchasing Department
for purchasing medical equipment,

examining estimates, looking
at price lists and catalogues...

Purchasing what?

Everything, Minister.

Everything from brain scanners
to Brasso! May I continue?

Be briefer.

Would that I could, Minister,
but you need to understand.

Fifth, the Technical Department
for evaluations.

Sixth, the Building Department
dealing with Phase 3 plans,

costing and so forth for the final
phase to be completed by 1994.

Then, there's Maintenance,
Cleaning and Catering,

Personnel in charge of leave,
National Health Insurance, salaries,

as well as staff welfare officers
to look after the 500 employees.

- And finally, Administration.
- Administrators!

More administrators administrating
other administrators!

This is important work, Minister.

The typing pool, stationery,
office furniture and equipment.

- Liaison between departments.
- Are you being serious ornot?

- What do you mean?
- There are NO patients!

That is what a hospital's for.

Ill people! Healing the sick!

But all these vital tasks must
be done with or without patients.


- Why?
- Why?

I don't understand.

How else can I express it? Why?

Would you sack the army
because there's no war?

Completely different!
A hospital must produce results.

We don't measure our success
by results but by activity.

Those 500 people
are seriously overworked.

The full establishment
should be 650.

May I show you the paperwork?

No, Humphrey.
Enough is enough. Sack them!

Out of the question, Minister.

We need administrators
or the hospital will never open.

- Sack the ancillary staff.
- The unions won'twear it.

Sack half and use the money
to get doctors and nurses,

and open some wards!

No, Humphrey, that's my lastword.
My lastword!

You may go!

Very well, Minister.
I shall have a word with the unions.

- But I don't hold out much hope.
- Go!

That seems to be everything.
Thank you forcoming.

Thank you very much.

Very good meeting.

- Got time fora drink?
- A quick one.

The usual? Make yourself at home.

Thank you.

What are we going to do
about St Edward's?

St Edward's Hospital?

Not much of a case.
Can't fight you on it.

What do you mean?

We realise you can't keep ancillary
staff on in an empty hospital.

Isn't that a bit defeatist?


- Surely, you can stick up forthem?
- You want us to...?

It's not just your workers, you know?

The 342 civil servants must have
some workers to administer.

- Civil servants are never laid off.
- We live in disturbing times.

You mean, if we take industrial
action, you'll support us?

My dear Brian,
I am the Permanent Secretary.

My task is to turn
the wheels of government.

I couldn't possibly countenance
any such action.

But... if there were
effective opposition

from the ancillary workers,

the civil servants
would have to stay.

And the Minister?

The Ministerdoesn't know
his ACAS from his NALGO.

I haven't got much of a case.

Hospital empty for 15 months,
wards not open for another year.

Pull yourself together. Think of your
members' wives and children.

Their... cats... budgies!

They're resigned to it by now.

Is Billy Fraser resigned to it?

Yes... but he's overat Southwark.

Do you want to bet?

You mean...?

Well, that's a different matter,
with some real shop-floor militancy.

You see? Unity. Solidarity.

- Thanks for the drink.
- Thank you, Brother.

Please give my kind regards
to our fraternal comrades.

We shall not,
we shall not be moved!

Minister, this is Mrs Rogers,
the chief administrator.

- Nice to meet you.
- Billy Fraser, committee chairman.

- Hownice to meet you.
- I wouldn't be too sure.

This is 'F' ward.

And this is 'J' theatre.

- Howmuch did all this cost?
- With radiotherapy...

two and a quartermillion.

- It's appalling it's not used!
- No, a very good thing in some ways.

Prolongs its life,
cuts down running costs.

But there are no patients!

But essential work has to go on.

Aren't patients essential work?

Running an organisation
of 500 people is a big job.

But if they weren't here,
they wouldn't be here!

This is wrong. It won't do.

Either get some patients
or I'll close it.

- Well, in the course of time...
- Not in the course of time. Now!

Get rid of 300 staff, get some
doctors and get some patients!

Without those 300 people
this hospital wouldn't function!

And it's functioning now?

Minister, it's one of the best-run
hospitals in the country.

It's up for
a Florence Nightingale Award.

- What, pray, is that?
- "The Most Hygienic Hospital".

I've said my last word.
300 staff must go.

- 300 jobs lost?
- Surgery with a skeleton staff?

Don't do any surgery. Do varicose
veins, piles... Do something!

- You mean 300 jobs lost?
- Yes, I do.

A hospital is a place
for healing of the sick!

It's employment for my members,
and you want to sack them.

Is that your compassionate society?

Compassionate to patients
rather than your members!

We'll come out on strike.

Very well, do that.

Who can it harm? Do, please!
Strike, the sooner the better!

Take the administrators with you.
Then we shan't have to pay you.

- How about a drink before home?
- Yes. Thank you, Minister.

- That went well at the hospital.
- Yes, Minister.

- I wasn't standing any argument.
- No, Minister.

Threatening to strike!
Played right into my hands. Cheers!

Aren't we missing the news?

Our diplomatic correspondent
says the US is pressuring the UK

to take Cuban refugees.

The Government
has made no comment.

Got no money.

All workers in London hospitals

are to go on strike
at Friday midnight.

Right... What?

A rowhas blown up
at St Edward's

over the proposed laying-off
of 170 ancillary workers.

We spoke to activist Billy Fraser.

We're striking
against unemployment.

We can bring London's hospitals
to a complete standstill.

There'll be
no blood transfusions,

no cancertreatment, nothing!

Till we have
the compassionate society.

- How can you do this to patients?
- It's Mr Hackerthat's doing it.

But you're inflicting terrible
sanctions on the innocent public.

I'd like to take this opportunity
to assure the general public,

every stone will be left unturned
in a search for a settlement.

Have you seen the news?
You said you'd talk to the unions!

- What are we going to do?
- We have a more serious problem.

Sir Maurice's independent enquiry
about the department.

It's unfavourable to us.

You said he was sound!

I know, but he's also working
as chairman

of the Refugee Resettlement

There are more Brownie points
for refugees than enquiries!

Precisely, Minister.

We've no money
to re-house the refugees.

- Minister?
- I don'twant to talk!

It's Number 10...

Hello, Ji...

Yes. Quite.

I see.

Not at all. Thank you.

They've seen Fraser on the news.

They want a peace formula soon.

Sir Maurice says he'll be satisfied

only if the UKwill house
1,000 refugees.

Butwe haven't the money.
Or for 1,000 hospital beds...

- How many refugees?
- 1,000.

1,000 refugees? 1,000 beds!

Minister, that hospital is
for sick British not healthy foreigners!

- There's a huge waiting list.
- Didn't you just say

Sir Maurice's enquiry was likely
to come down against us?

- That's a...
- That what you want?

I see your point, Minister.

Bernard, reinstate all the workers
at St Edward's.

Tell Sir Maurice
we can offer a new hospital,

with accommodation
for 1,000 refugees.

Tell the press itwas my decision
and that everybody's happy.

- Do want to give a quote, Minister?
- Why not? Say...

"It was a tough decision,
but a necessary one.

If Britain is to retain
the name of...

- "The compassionate society"?
- Thank you.

"The compassionate society".
Got that?

Yes, Minister.