From taxis, hotels and take away, the gig economy is now heading to the health sector

Image by Juliana Futter

In the world of Silicon Valley, disruption is what’s referred to as the kind of technological advancements that shift our perception of solid economies in modern societies. Taxis become Uber, food delivery services transform to Deliveroo, hotels are now your home abroad through AirBnB. Although priding themselves in a so-called socialist core, these gig-economy companies are certainly shifting systems, but not always for the better as, they have us believe.

Until Health Minister Jeremy Hunt announced the NHS will soon be launching its own gig economy app, these types of disruptions remained largely in the privatised realms of leisure. And now this dangerous model, which has proven on endless accounts of the vulnerable state it leaves those who cater to it, will be copy and pasted into one of the most valuable yet trembling public bodies in the UK, the National Health Service.

“The nurses need to be able to work flexibly, do extra hours at short notice, get paid more quickly when they do and make their own choices on pension contributions.” Hunt declared in his speech during a Conservative conference on Monday, continuing, “so today I’m also announcing that new flexible working arrangements will be offered to all NHS employees during this parliament.”

To introduce the NHS to a model that has thrived in the privatised world is worrying in countless ways, but namely that this, to me at least, marks the fetus stages of privatising this public body.

Governmental institutions should be functioning on the foundation of living wages, secure contracts, and holiday pay. And while the gig-economy model does offer flexible hours, it also comes with a lot of insecurity on top of an already overworked and underpaid position. To use the words of Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary for health services, “you only have to look at this model in health and social care where zero hours contracts and 15 minute slots to look after the elderly have left the system on the brink of collapse.” Instead of throwing hugely needed funds away in the creation of a utopian Uber model for the NHS, the health secretary desperately needs to make up for unpaid extra hours, distribute pay rises across all NHS staff and nourish and respect this valuable public body.