Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Go on, quit then...

Many years ago, I did some work in a public sector computer department. To describe it as hard work wouldn't exactly be accurate. I had about half a day of work each day.

Now, the thing was about back then that it was hardly something to be resented, because quite honestly, the pay really did suck back then. People got paid pretty badly in that department. The upside was things like a low risk of job losses and yes, a decent pension. It's probably fair to say that Blair, in his early years restored the balance between public and private sector.

But the public sector are living on a different planet now. I watched someone on the news complaining that they had a pay freeze for the past 2 years. I know people in the private sector who haven't had a pay rise in 5 years.

The ultimate measure of your value is whether you can quit and get something better. And I suspect that most of the people striking can't. So you'd better take it. The private sector won't support you and the more you strike, the more likely the public will find a Thatcher type who'll really ruin the party.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Some NHS Analysis (2)

Following on from the previous post, here's where we get into a little speculation.

While writing my last post, I had a moment of clarity. As I said, a reminder system for the NHS based on the costs they provide are a no-brainer. Really, you'd be mad not to implement it if such savings were there.

Have you ever worked with a can't-do guy? I have. I had one work for me once, and after a few weeks I wanted to fire him. What such people do is anything to avoid work, and then as much as they can to cover their own arse. They'll look for reasons not to do things, especially if they can create some form of organisational anarchy which makes measuring their delivery hard to prove.

I've realised is why the Doctors spend so much time involved in fakecharity and departmental work about smoking, obesity and alcohol. It's not that they're power mad fascists (although some are). It's about them diverting the blame to you, to try to accept that the ever increasing costs of the NHS aren't down to their inefficiency and lack of improvement, but because the population is doing it.

Missed appointments are part of this. I'm sure that many appointments are missed, but the NHS' figures are obviously bogus. It doesn't cost £650 for an appointment. I've been private and it costs around £150-200. And many missed appointments will simply mean that a day that's running late gets back onto schedule. What that's about is an indirect call for more money, or at least defending the money they already get.

It's designed to divert attention from the systemic problems of the NHS, to get you to think about the problem as simply being about the resources provided to them and the demands on the system, that these are the causes of the problems that we have.

Some NHS Analysis (1)

While this post covers a subject in its entirety, I think it's really two separate points, so I'm going to divide it into 2 parts.

The first part concerns a story I spotted on Google News about hospital appointments:-
Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has hailed its new appointment reminder service as a great success, with the proportion of appointments missed in outpatients having dropped by around a third since the initiative was launched.
That's very, very good because we were told a couple of years ago that NHS Missed Appointments were costing £600m every year.

So, if we implemented such a system across the board, the NHS would save £200m/year.

I happen to work in software, and some years ago I worked on a system that had to send SMS messages to customers when their bills were ready to be viewed online. So, I know that setting such things up are quite straightforward and quite cheap (take the customer phone number and message and send it across to a bureau, job done). The bureau would charge us nearly 10p/SMS, although this is now down to nearer 5p/SMS. We then had to build and support the software. And 2 of us basically did this, along with everything else.

The Ashford trust used outbound dialing which has slightly higher costs, including slightly higher support costs. So, for the sake of argument, let's double the price.

Now, the Ashford trust said it had a 7.9% missed rate before, so with 6.5 million missed appointments, we can assume that the NHS makes a total of something around 100 million appointments. So, we'd have to send out 100 million SMS messages. Let's assume a total of £1m to run it and 10p for each call.

So, we'd have to spend £10m/year sending out reminders + £1m to run reminders, and the total saving would be £199m. If I could offer my clients such a high return on such a relatively small investment, they would bite my hand off.

And let me remind you, every figure used here for costs and percentage savings are all from the NHS. They've claimed these losses and also the percentages saved. And my figures are conservative of the sort of costs of implementation.

So why is it the case that this isn't across all hospitals? I know at least 2 trusts that don't do this. I also know that my dentist has had this in place (using SMS messages) for 4 years. The difference is of course that my dentist personally sees the benefit that a bureaucratic NHS manager doesn't see. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

One for Mr Wadsworth, I think

From CiF
Unlike Tottenham, Brixton's cultural appeal appears to be untouched by the recent disorders. Middle-class families still want to move to Brixton and the area continues to have an appeal beyond its boundaries. Whereas the Tottenham MP, David Lammy, has pleaded with the British public to remember Tottenham, Jowell was able to boast about Brixton's popularity when stating that "people come from all over London to eat in Brixton and enjoy Brixton". This contrast is curious considering the parallels between the two areas: both have had the same turbulent relationship with the police and a similar history of riots and radical activism.
Here's some data from Google Maps: it takes 40-45 minutes by bus from Tottenham to Bank. It takes 23 minutes from Brixton to Bank, and 19 minutes from Notting Hill to Bank.

So, here's my hypothesis: the city boys have already gentrified the East End, Notting Hill and are now doing the same thing to Brixton, because these are reasonably close to the city. Young people, not much money at first, need somewhere to live, prefer it lively, don't mind the risks, but don't want to be too far away. Gradually the coffee shops and organic groceries and galleries move in as these people have money and become nicer areas. But Tottenham is just too far from the city to make it worthwhile, at least right now.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Private Healthcare

From the Guardian (in January):-
In Nottingham, Parsa says the company turned around the centre, raising productivity in a single year by 22% and lifting patient satisfaction to 99.6% – one of the highest in the country. Further he says it now has a lower return to theatre rate with 90% of staff rating themselves as happy in the job.
22% in one year? What the hell were all the fucking consultants in the NHS doing for all these years that Circle could raise productivity by so much, so quickly? This doesn't just suggest that they found novel ways to do things, but that there were big and obvious problems with the processes that they took on, because most established businesses can't make those sort of improvements, because they've already refined productivity.

But envy of the world, and all that..

Thursday, 10 November 2011

More of Our Money Pissed Away on Sports Days

From the Daily Telegraph:-
Mr Cameron said: "I don’t want anyone to be in doubt. We want to bring the World Athletics Championships to London in 2017. The government is behind the bid. Our althletes and sports fans are behind the bid. Our country is behind the bid.
Right, and who's going to pay for it? We are. Yet again, the productive bits of the economy are going to pay for more folly from the supposedly prudent "cutting" party of this country.
"For London and for Great Britain, there is no better way to follow the Olympics, and to build on its legacy, than by welcoming the world's greatest althletes back to London for the 2017 World Championships.
"We have what it takes to host a spectacular Championship…With fantastic facilities, full of passionate fans…In the most exciting, multicultural, sports-mad city in the World.
What "legacy"? Look, just about no-one cares about athletics. When people are sports-mad in this country, it's for cricket, rugby, football, and motor racing. Try and get a ticket for Twickenham. There are events held at 15,000 seat Crystal Palace and the main stand is half empty. This isn't like building up our internet industry, or even the bits of sport that make money. Building up our prowess in a sport that is a subsidy junkie is just nuts. East Germany were fantastic at athletics, and where did it get them?
We want our stadiums to bear witness to World Records….That's why we have invested in state-of-the-art facilities for 2012 and beyond. We want to inspire the next generation of althletes…
What? What the hell is the value of having World Records in our stadia? Honestly, who really cares? Most of the world will watch it on TV. Are we going to get richer because they saw some doped-up Bulgarian she-male throwing a discus 2cm further? No, we're not, are we?

Golden rule: if a politician supports the Olympics or any major athletics event, they're probably not the best people to vote for. I'll give Major a pass because there wasn't enough data on how much wealth the Olympics destroys when he backed the Manchester bid, but there's no excuse now.

I'm Missing a Trick Here

I was in Bath recently and saw this "art work".

Basically, it's a print of Frank Sinatra's mugshot, selling for £285. Now, this is public domain. You can find it all over Google Images. So, download it, apply a bit of photoshop, send it of to bonus print and £5 later, you'll have your own bit of art.

Personally, I like the Bill Gates mugshot better (Bill liked driving fast and got nicked a few times for it). It's not just that he became the richest man in the world and then probably the biggest philanthropist, I just really like the "it's a fair cop" grin.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Smoking Ban In Pubs.. explained to non-smokers

Imagine if you get home and there waiting for you in the lounge is Marillon Cotillard*, covered in whipped cream. Would you go down the local brothel and pay £50 to shag Ann Widdecombe?

You see, beer is just beer. Yes, you can find some obscure ale from North Yorkshire, but most people go to the pub for social reasons. And they want to sit and talk to their buddies. If some of that involves talking to their buddies in the pissing rain, or interrupting their conversation to go outside occassionally, then that's a worse experience than just drinking at home. Oh, and drinking at home is also cheaper.

Now, there's certain things that break this rule, such as going out to the pub to meet up as a group. At that point, the pub wins. If you want to pick up some skirt, you won't do it staying at home. So, even if you're a smoker you'll go to the pub just to get some, despite the downsides.

*Marillon Cotillard is this blog's current definition of top totty

Friday, 4 November 2011

This is, of course, Illegal

Via the Conservatives...
This morning, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that the Government will fund 5,000 mentors for new and existing female entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their own business.
Just because it discriminates against men doesn't mean it's OK. Or legal (1975 Sex Discrimination Act, Human Rights Act).

Already contacted the EHRC and my MP about this.

The Higher Education Bubble

Sam Bowman points out the serious problems with higher education in the USA over at the ASI. Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Et Tu, Salvation Army?

The usual suspects of political charity are of course behind the Robin Hood Tax, but I'm sad to see the Salvation Army among their number.

It's like this: if you're a charity and lobby to take my money by force then you get nothing. It's really that simple.

I'll find another home for my donation this Christmas.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

E-Petitions: A Summary


  1. There won't be enough time to debate them all
  2. A group of snakes politicians will get to decide which of them is the most important

So,it's just a bit of PR.