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WPP shareholders reject Sir Martin Sorrell's £6.8m pay report

"Message... was unambiguous and cannot be ignored," says one major shareholder

Fifty-nine and a half per cent of shareholders in the advertising firm WPP have rejected the £6.8m pay plan for its chief executive Martin Sorrell.  Twenty-one per cent of shareholders also voted against relection of Jeffrey Rosen, the chair of the company's compensation committee. Philip Lader, the chairman of the company, said that the board took the vote "seriously", adding "We’ll consult with many share owners and we’ll them move forward in the best interest of our share owners and our business." 

Sorrell had been awarded a 30 per cent rise in his basic salary, to £1.3m, but an additional change to the way bonuses are awarded at the company lifted the maximum payout to 500 per cent from 300 per cent. Sorrell was awarded a 385 per cent bonus for 2011, lifting his total salary to £6.8m (around £0.5m was allocated to neither bonus nor salary).

Defending his high pay, Sorrell highlighted the fact that he was returning cash to shareholders (the dividend payout ratio has reached 35 per cent) and that he had taken very little money out of the company, saying that "almost all" of his net worth was tied up in it. He also addressed criticisms of the company, telling shareholders that:

We’ve had a very strong new business run, we’ve had a number of major new team assignments in the last four to six weeks, and we are making some progress in consumer insight although the Euro crisis is becoming more concerning.

For the first four months of the year, WPP reported like for like sales up 4 per cent, with growth in BRIC markets up 14 per cent. Despite this, shareholders are resolute that their voice will be heard. Standard Life, one of the major shareholders who voted against Sorrell's pay, said:

The message from shareholders was unambiguous and cannot be ignored.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Want to know how you really behave as a doctor? Watch yourself on video

There is nothing quite like watching oneself at work to spur development – and videos can help us understand patients, too.

One of the most useful tools I have as a GP trainer is my video camera. Periodically, and always with patients’ permission, I place it in the corner of my registrar’s room. We then look through their consultations together during a tutorial.

There is nothing quite like watching oneself at work to spur development. One of my trainees – a lovely guy called Nick – was appalled to find that he wheeled his chair closer and closer to the patient as he narrowed down the diagnosis with a series of questions. It was entirely unconscious, but somewhat intimidating, and he never repeated it once he’d seen the recording. Whether it’s spending half the consultation staring at the computer screen, or slipping into baffling technospeak, or parroting “OK” after every comment a patient makes, we all have unhelpful mannerisms of which we are blithely unaware.

Videos are a great way of understanding how patients communicate, too. Another registrar, Anthony, had spent several years as a rheumatologist before switching to general practice, so when consulted by Yvette he felt on familiar ground. She began by saying she thought she had carpal tunnel syndrome. Anthony confirmed the diagnosis with some clinical tests, then went on to establish the impact it was having on Yvette’s life. Her sleep was disturbed every night, and she was no longer able to pick up and carry her young children. Her desperation for a swift cure came across loud and clear.

The consultation then ran into difficulty. There are three things that can help CTS: wrist splints, steroid injections and surgery to release the nerve. Splints are usually the preferred first option because they carry no risk of complications, and are inexpensive to the NHS. We watched as Anthony tried to explain this. Yvette kept raising objections, and even though Anthony did his best to address her concerns, it was clear she remained unconvinced.

The problem for Anthony, as for many doctors, is that much medical training still reflects an era when patients relied heavily on professionals for health information. Today, most will have consulted with Dr Google before presenting to their GP. Sometimes this will have stoked unfounded fears – pretty much any symptom just might be an indication of cancer – and our task then is to put things in proper context. But frequently, as with Yvette, patients have not only worked out what is wrong, they also have firm ideas what to do about it.

We played the video through again, and I highlighted the numerous subtle cues that Yvette had offered. Like many patients, she was reticent about stating outright what she wanted, but the information was there in what she did and didn’t say, and in how she responded to Anthony’s suggestions. By the time we’d finished analysing their exchanges, Anthony could see that Yvette had already decided against splints as being too cumbersome and taking too long to work. For her, a steroid injection was the quickest and surest way to obtain relief.

Competing considerations must be weighed in any “shared” decision between a doctor and patient. Autonomy – the ability for a patient to determine their own care – is of prime importance, but it isn’t unrestricted. The balance between doing good and doing harm, of which doctors sometimes have a far clearer appreciation, has to be factored in. Then there are questions of equity and fairness: within a finite NHS budget, doctors have a duty to prioritise the most cost-effective treatments. For the NHS and for Yvette, going straight for surgery wouldn’t have been right – nor did she want it – but a steroid injection is both low-cost and low-risk, and Anthony could see he’d missed the chance to maximise her autonomy.

The lessons he learned from the video had a powerful impact on him, and from that day on he became much more adept at achieving truly shared decisions with his patients.

This article first appeared in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide