Monday, 31 January 2011

NHS Producer Protection

From The Guardian

Dr Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "Ploughing ahead with these changes as they stand, at such speed, at a time of huge financial pressures, and when NHS staff and experts have so many concerns, is a massive gamble.
"The BMA supports greater involvement of clinicians in planning and shaping NHS services, but the benefits that clinician-led commissioning can bring are threatened by other parts of the bill."
It's funny how all these people talk about risks, and how "it's risky right now" or "the change is too fast". None of these people seems to ever be willing to put any more meat on these bones, to explain the sort of risks that are involved.
I suspect the reason for their opposition to speed is that they've been caught on the hop. Andrew Lansley has produced a set of reforms that they didn't expect, and is implementing them in a very rapid timetable, and what these producers are trying to do is to extend the time to introduce them so that they can mount a more professional campaign of fear than what they can do in the time available.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Olympic Stadium

From Metro:-
World athletics chief Lamine Diack has warned Britain’s reputation in sport will be ‘dead’ if they abandon their promise to retain an athletics track at the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games by letting Spurs redevelop it. 
Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, insists London must have an athletics legacy – as they vowed to do when they won the vote for the 2012 Olympics.
Yeah? You got a contract to back that up, maybe some divisions you can send our way? No. Well, tough.
Asked about the effect on British sport’s future if Spurs win the bid, Diack said: ‘You can consider you are dead. You are finished. There will be no credibility. They will have made a big lie to us in their presentation. And after that it is a betrayal.
No-one outside athletics or the Olympics is going to give a damn, and once the public realise that the Olympics isn't going to deliver sugar-coated unicorns then they won't give a toss about the Olympics. I'm pretty sure it's going to make sod all difference to the sports we actually care about (tennis, golf, cricket, football and rugby)*

Oh, and Spurs' solution makes perfect sense. Use the stadium every week and pretty much fill it..

*You can tell the sports we care about because someone other than the BBC puts a bid in for them.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

NHS Reform

From the BBC:-

Hospitals may have to close under reforms to the NHS in England, a report from the NHS Confederation suggests. 

Huh? A huge building built for medical purposes, filled with lots of specialist medical equipment is going to close? Even if we went for full-on free market reform of the health service, someone is going to buy up those buildings and use them to run a hospital, even if it's only for £1.

The findings, reported in the Observer, criticise ministers for not explaining the need for the reforms, describing some of the process as "extraordinarily risky." 

That's just absurd. There's simply no evidence that opening up something to the market is "extraordinarily risky". We've opened up the airline market and the optician market in my lifetime, and there has been no problem in terms of safety with either. And I guarantee this: if any private hospital was like Stafford Hospital, they'd be out of business within a very short period of time, because people would tell their GP that they'd rather wait and go elsewhere.

The confederation represents bodies such as foundation hospitals, primary care trusts and doctors' groups.
According to The Observer, the NHS Confederation report will also raise concerns over the new system under which consortia of GPs will be able to send patients to whichever provider they judge will offer the best treatment, warning that this will force the NHS to shrink in order to make space for new healthcare providers.
The policy of "price competition", allowing hospitals to undercut one another to attract patients, poses a risk to standards of care, the report is expected to warn.
Written as though the NHS' standards of care were something to cheer from the rooftops. Here's my guess: you could cut 10% off what the NHS costs for operation, make a profit and still run it more efficiently and to the same clinical standards.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Climate Change Statistical Cherry Picking

From The Guardian

Climate change is affecting the cultivation of Assam tea, with rising temperatures reducing yields and altering the distinctive flavour of India's most popular drink, researchers say.

The Tea Board of India said it had recorded a steady decline in tea production in recent years. In 2007, Assam produced 512,000 tonnes of tea. By 2008 this had declined to 487,000 tonnes, with estimated production in 2009 down again to 445,000. A further decrease is expected this year.

Thanks to a comment by AntonyIndia, and adding in the stats from the site, we can see the stats since 2001 (which I've helpfully charted for you good people):-

So, even if there's been a decline the past 2 years, it's still above what it was in 2002 and 2003 (which were below 2005-2008).

I'd be looking for a man with a red face, horns and a tail

MT. JULIET (AP) - A fire broke out at a barn at the home of country fiddler and guitarist Charlie Daniels, killing several animals including horses and a bull.
Any excuse, really...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Swindon NIMBYism

Nice to get a local story for once. From the Adver:-

Primegate Properties (Hooknorth) Ltd, on behalf of Bovis Homes, has taken its case to build up to 175 properties on land off Hook Street to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol after Swindon Council refused planning permission last year.
The news has rattled most families living close to the site who are opposed to the possible development of the area. 
Now, I happen to know Hook Street very well. It goes from near Freshbrook in the giant housing area known as West Swindon to the village of Hook. It's a good bike ride because it's not quite flat, but instead has a very slight incline, which means that you get some good exercise on your way out from West Swindon.
Robert Buckland, the MP for the area, has been vocal about his opposition to the plans and is urging anyone who wishes to make a comment on the proposals to do so before it’s too late.
He said: “There is a massive feeling in the area about this – people don’t think it is right.
Swindon Borough Council refused planning permission but the developers have now taken it to the planning inspectors.
“We definitely feel that decisions like this should be made, and made to stick, at a local level and not by some external body miles down the road in Bristol.
Nonsense. All that inspectorate will do is to look at the planning application in terms of the law. I happen to think this is a very good thing, because I believe in essential liberty and that councillors should have a damn good reason to stop someone building on the land they bought, and not simply be able to stop it on a whim.

“The proposal would mean green space close to Lydiard Park becoming a housing estate. 

There's already housing estate backing onto Lydiard Park called Grange Park and it's massive.

“I am opposed to this development for a number of reasons.
“Firstly, it would mean loss of open space adjacent to the environmentally sensitive country park. Secondly, the roads in this area are totally inadequate to handle the extra traffic and thirdly, local infrastructure such as schools and community facilities could not cope with the influx of new residents.” 

Firstly, I have no idea what is "environmentally sensitive" about Lydiard Park, but considering that it already backs onto a housing estate, has a road going past it and one into it, has thousands of people walking around it or playing football on a summers day who can be served coffee and ice cream, and a couple of times a year has orchestral and rock concerts with fireworks, then I think it can cope with a few extra houses near it.

Secondly, Hook Street is pretty much empty. I used to drive on it and even in the morning, it's empty. As for community facilities, I think we can cope with the offspring of 170 households to go with the 75,000 we already have.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Passenger Charter

From the Daily Telegraph
Thousands of commuters were denied payouts by Southeastern after the firm passed punctuality targets by a wafer-thin margin.
Greg Barker, a climate change minister and Tory MP for Bexhill and Battle, has demanded an independent inspection of the figures, saying they “didn’t smell right”.
This is because the statistics did not take into account the services which were cancelled when the company operated a succession of emergency timetables during the recent bad weather.
Now, the company has denied doing this, but even if they were, it rather suggests that the way of determining compensation is pretty screwed up if a company can achieve it by cancelling trains rather than running them.

Chugger ATMs

Banks are to adopt a system that allows people to make a small donation to charity whenever they withdraw cash.
The Government also wants shops to offer customers the opportunity to “round up the pound” when using a debit or credit card, with the extra money going to charity.
No, please. Just fuck off.
I go into a shop to buy things. I go to an ATM to get cash out. I give money to charity when I feel like it. Shopping is already something that pisses me off without the addition of some chugging thrown in. When I'm stood at a cashpoint queue, I want to get my money fast, not be stuck behind someone pondering how much and which charity to give to.