Who Is Wasteful And Inefficient?

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From our Swindon correspondent:

From The Guardian

George Monbiot is taking shots at a £12bn government healthcare project:-
If you are not incandescent with rage, you haven’t grasped the scale of what has been done to us. The new surge in the coronavirus, and the restrictions and local lockdowns it has triggered, are caused in large part by the catastrophic failure of the test-and-trace system. Its £12bn budget has been blown, as those in charge of it have failed to drive the infection rate below the critical threshold.

No, not Connecting for Health, the Tony Blair initiative to build an NHS records system that squandered £12bn on consultants, but Test and Trace.

Their failure was baked in, caused by the government’s ideological commitment to the private sector. This commitment had three impacts: money that could have saved lives has been diverted into corporate profits; inexperienced consultants and executives have been appointed over the heads of qualified public servants; instead of responsive local systems, the government has created a centralised monster.
OK, locationisation is probably a very good idea (as always). But if this has been a failure, where are the lawsuits? People in government have written tenders to supply, yes? They’ll have written deliverables and service level agreements into those, right? They’ll have penalties for failure? They’ll have done regular progress monitoring to make sure that suppliers are going to deliver, with stage payments and a contingency supplier for something so critical?

No-one has yet explained what, precisely, these suppliers have done wrong. Where they deviated from what the civil servants have asked them to do. Suppliers to government do sometimes cock up, sure, but when it’s a vague “it’s all down to the consultants”, it rather triggers my Spider sense. We know that the crappy use of Excel wasn’t at Serco or any other supplier, but inside the Department of Health.

The issue here is like if you invite Rabbi Cohen and the local synagogue over and you tell the caterers that you want prawn cocktail for starters, follows by pork. This is going to be a disaster, but you can’t blame the caterers, can you? You asked them for something and they delivered. It’s your fault.
Most of the stories I heard about Connecting for Health weren’t that the analysts and programmers didn’t do their job, is that the NHS were constantly changing requirements rather than getting things shipped. So if you moved the programmers inside the Department of Health, you’d just get the same problem. Maybe the people on HS2 are filling their boots, but you can’t blame them for it being a bloody stupid idea.
The Conservative mantra, repeated for 40 years like a stuck record, is that the public sector is wasteful and inefficient while the private sector is lean and competitive. Yet the waste and inefficiency caused by privatising essential public health functions is off the scale. This isn’t like rail or water privatisation, where failure has caused dysfunction within a single public service. This is about the escalating collapse of national life.
And yet, when the private sector works for the private sector, it tends to work out pretty well, doesn’t it? My 3 man dental practice has digital records, even showing a graphic of my teeth, with all of my history, and had SMS reminders long before the NHS did. How do they have better software than the glorious NHS does?

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Felipe Grey
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Felipe Grey

The Civil Service couldn’t write a Business Requirements Specification (BRS) to save their lives and actually have to hire consultants to write them. They simply do not have the training or experience to do this. Then, when the Technical Specification Document (TSD) is produced based on the BRS, they then try to change the Business Requirements half way into the project, and blame the ‘consultants’ for getting the BRS document wrong. The BRS gets re-written and a new TSD then gets produced so everyone ends up getting paid at least twice. Meanwhile, technology also moves on. This would happen if… Read more »

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

It is widely accepted that Germany’s responsive to testing for the pandemic (if it really qualifies as a pandemic) has been superior to the UK’s, can Monbiot explain that, in light of the fact that the private sector has played a vastly greater role in Germany’s Covid response, as well as in Germany’s overall health care sector, than in the UK? The question is of course rhetorical.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

“We should copy Germany’s healthcare system, which is (broadly): 40% private enterprise; 30% local (Länder); and 30% charities.” said George Monbiot, never.

john77
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john77

When did a privatised water company poison its customers? That was pre-privatisation.
Monbiot is either forgetful or deliberately lying.

Davidsb
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Davidsb

Government:- “You can’t build new reservoirs – the EU says so.”
Water companies:- “OK.”
Government:- “Why have you created water shortages?”

Esteban
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Esteban

Obamacare was much the same. The private contractors agreed to take a lot of blame without complaint as long as none of their fees were threatened. Some people wondered why the gov’t didn’t go after these incompetent contractors, but most of the media were happy to move on.

Jim
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Jim

The State sector gets the private sector contractors it wants. Namely ones who are prepared to jump through a million hoops in order to get the contract, many if not most of which have nothing to do with their ability to deliver the good or service. So the government ends up with contractors with suitably diverse employee rosters, and wonderful anti-human trafficking policies and vast folders of paperwork proving they have nothing to do with any racism/sexism/ageism/any ism you like. Whether they’re good software designers, or good caterers, or good architects is an afterthought. Thus it ends up with the… Read more »

swannypol
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swannypol

The cost of the hoop jumping is also priced in to the tenders. In a conversation with a building contractor for a school extension he said the bid cost was around £30k because of the hoops. With a minimum 3 tenders required, one way or another the school spent best part of £100k getting hoops jumped through for a £500k build.