Getting back the family silver

 

               The public sector is not very good at controlling public assets. One of the ways the government could make the money it spends go further in the new year would be to get a better grip on all the assets it buys and uses. This applies to all departments and quangos. It applies to assets used  by staff, and by the general public.

                The NHS, for example, sends many people out of hospital each year with walking sticks, crutches, wheelchairs and other aids to mobility. Many get better. Some of the NHS assets get put in the garage, discarded as no longer needed. There is no universal system for the NHS to get its items back for another patient to use.

                  Many departments allow their staff  laptops and mobile phones for use at home or away from the office. Has there been a recent audit of them?  Are they returned when a staff member leaves or moves job?

                   Does the department or quango have an effective way of preventing theft by staff or public?  I was reminded of the dangers talking to a hotelier recently of how they have to find ways to ensure a minority of paying guests do not take bath robes, bed linen, or even lamps and tvs out with them at the end of their stay. The NHS sometimes has patients who think items from the hospital would be a suitable compensation for being ill.

                    I would be interested in your experiences of how well the public sector controls the issue of assets in the first place, and their recovery when no longer needed for the intended purpose. If the government started 2013 with an amnesty to get property back, it might amount to a lot of money.

                     There is also the issue of oversupply. Many people receive medicines, medical supplies, special diet food and the like, in quantities well beyond their needs or willingness to consume. Once issued to a patient, the NHS will not take back unused items, even though they have survived with the packaging intact. Could there be better systems for controlling the issue, and doing more of the storage through the suppliers and just in time systems?  In public sector offices and schools, what are the rules on private use and access to office consumables?   When did the public sector last enjoy a proper de stocking exercise, to use up the large stock positions before they are damaged or out of date? What is the wastage rate?

                       I will take these matters up with the Cabinet Office for central government. Councillors could do the same for their local authorities.

 

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105 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    My experience is mixed. My mother came home from hospital with endless crutches and so forth – these I returned on her death in some cases 9 years after issue. I expect a lot of people wouldn’t have bothered.

    both my mother and father were issued with vast amounts of disabled equipment. All had serial numbers and was recorded in a database. THe cost must have been phenomenal. Again I returned this all when they died but I still think it would be there now five years later as there seemed no way of knowing that the recipients had died. In fact there was a general air of surprise when I drove up with it.

    The electric wheelchair may have been an exception. It was clearly worth the price of a small car. This was tracked but not I think because of value but because of liabilities on the NHS if it wasn’t serviced etc.

    Anyone who works in the NHS – whether a friend of this government or not will use one word to sum it all up – “waste”.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Sarah

      A likewise experience.

      Staff looked surprised when equipment taken back, in fact other than for the wheelchair (a council department) my name not even recorded as returning equipment to the hospital from where it originally came..

      I guess purchasing items for Government departments is still as chaotic as before, whatever happed to Philip Greenes report, was it ever actioned after reading, did anything change ?.

      • Disaffected
        Posted December 27, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

        Has anyone really taken Gordon Brown to task over selling our gold??? Why announce the he is selling before he does so?? How about selling those jump jets to the US at a huge cost to the taxpayer, anyone in government ready to tell us?? Or the Nimrods being crushed before they have even flown- how was it cost effective to crush them?? Or moth balling an aircraft carrier or two before it is built?? There are so many examples in the MoD that it defies logic why the whole procurement department was not sacked. Then we have Hague and the stuffed snake or his taste for fine wine to share with foreign dignitaries.When do we find out who paid for the meals for Cameron to entertain Tory party donors? ie the electric, food, gas, water and actually cooked the meals No.10 staff paid by the taxpayer or Mr and Mrs Cameron? How long does this inquiry take for goodness sake. Meanwhile, overseas aid, EU contributions, billions from Ed Davey to build wind farms in Africa and everyone has to pay more taxes for the stupidity when they tell us there is no money!! We were told by John Reid over six years ago the Border Agency was not fit for purpose, how long and how much does it cost the taxpayer to say no more immigration until the damn is repaired? Note to Osborne: there are not any tough immigration controls. Did you read the recent figures?? Suggestion, read before you speak.

        • APL
          Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

          Disaffected: “How long does this inquiry take for goodness sake .. ”

          It takes as long as the politicians think it takes the public to forget.

          Which is why I like to recall at every opportunity the corrupt scoundrels in the commons helping themselves to public money via the expenses scandal, when the commons *should* be the body that protects the public from government larceny.

  2. Kevin R. Lohse
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Thanks for reminding me. I have a crutch used by a family member gathering dust in the attic. It will be returned ……in the fullness of time and at the appropriate juncture of course.

    • Timaction
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      The biggest saving would be to ensure only those with entitlement (The British) actually receive healthcare. We have a system that I have personally witnessed where everyone, regardless of nationality receives treatment on our “International Health Service” at English taxpayers expense. No other Country in the world is so generous with its public services. We also give free housing, health and education to just about everyone. No wonder the country is broke. Even EU regs allow for charges in austere times as the Spanish are now doing to British ex pats with their health care. It just needs political will, drive and determination. Not political correctness.
      Mr Osborne is quoted as stating we have a reputation as having one of the toughest immigration policies in the world. He obviously doesn’t get out much for a walk around ALL of our major towns and Cities.

      • zorro
        Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

        ‘one of the toughest immigration policies in the world’…….hahahahaha…..As my father used to say ‘if wit was ****, he’d be constipated’

        The boasting is really quite remarkable, after the countless border fiascos, not checking computers on entry, effective amnesty of 500+,000 cases in the last few years, forced to separate the Border Force from the Border Agency….ritual humiliation of their senior management before the Home Affairs Select Committee. It really beggars belief…..

        zorro

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

          Zorro

          They live in a different world, but they simply do not/cannot recognise that fact.

          Note:
          Not much comment about the recently published Census results, which show a huge growth in poulation from immigration during the last decade.

          The next decade will be the same, you know it, I know it millions know it, because nothing has changed much, but most politicians will be in denial.

          • zorro
            Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

            Indeed, MigrationWatch forecast this increase many years ago and were roundly condemned by the bien pensants….Well, they were right all along, and Coalition policies will make little impact particularly with the influx of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals over the next years.

            zorro

          • sm
            Posted December 29, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            If you are surprised by the census, then you are really living in an enclave somewhere. What would be more interesting would be to focus on the census data of those below the age of 40.

            Political and business interest combining perhaps?
            Cheap labour and ability to manipulate elections?

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

        The talk is – of course – about means testing British pensioners.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

          That’ll teach those miserable pensioners not to vote for the Tories and a few other cuts to services and means tested benefits will teach the rest that they are not all millionaires or as prudent as they like to think they are.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Better just not to buy them gimmick computers in the first place most are doing very little of use with them anyway and just think of them as being a fringe benefit. Needless to say MPs got free ipads when far more functional but less trendy computers are available for less than half the cost, ones that have the advantage of keyboards too. They will be fairly valueless after 2 years of playing angry birds on them and as the batteries start to fail to hold the charge.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9239438/MPs-to-get-free-iPads-at-taxpayers-expense.html

    Well it is not their money, so what do they care. So long as Osborne keeps giving it to them they will surely find ways to waste it. Even if it is only giving six-figure payouts to 194 managers – their will be no shortage of “essential” things to spend it on.

    Reply MPs had to apply for an ipad instead of some other working computer – we are limited in the number of taxpayer financed computers we can have for our offices. I did not ask for an ipad, preferring a main computer with keyboard for responding to constituents.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Osborne speaking on radio 4’s today just now “we need policies that appeal to the heart not just the head”. So he is, I assume, happy for all the expensive green tosh, the over taxing or the rich and the every bigger state even though these destroy wealth, jobs and growth. After all it appeal to the heart even if it is clearly counter productive.

      This was in a section claiming to promote science! I assume he would be happy for doctors treating cancer to say “we need treatments that appeal to the heart not just the head” so get out the aromatherapy kit nurse ……….. Mind you quack medicine is what the NHS so often does at tax payers expense. What chance have we got with such absurd irrationality at the very heart of government. Can he not see the contradiction between promoting science and saying “we need policies that appeal to the heart not just the head” he might as well say “we need policies that appeal to the really stupid as well as to logic, reason and reality”.

      Just before this the interview claimed the BBC’s charter obliged them to be balanced on issues – well clearly not on man made global warming, the every bigger state sector, higher taxes, rational economics, enforced “equality” or the submission to the EU where the BBC line is very clear and in one direction every time.

      • oldtimer
        Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

        Your last paragraph re the Charter caught my eye. In fact the BBC Guidelines gives the BBC an escape clause – “…minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing concensus”. The BBC uses it to the full.

        Consider this recent example. The Andrew Mitchell plebgate affair seemed to be settled, cut and dried. The concensus was clear – he was gulty as charged. Yet some simple investigative reporting has revealed serious flaws in the evidence. Ex BBC reporter Michael Crick, for Channel 4 Dispatches, saw the CCTV evidence and spotted the obvious discrepancies about witnesses to the incident. No doubt Michael Crick wanted to make his mark after being “let go” by Newsnight. There are other instances of an absence of investigative reporting by the BBC. “CAGW” and its apparently seamless transition to “climate change” is one example. The EZ crisis is another. The BBC is failing its viewers on these topics.

        Family silver can refer to tangible objects like NHS wheelchairs; but it can also refer to priceless intangibles like the reputation of and trust in institutions like the BBC. In my opinion that reputation and trust is lost.

        • lifelogic
          Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          Indeed, “family silver can refer to tangible objects like NHS wheelchairs; but it can also refer to priceless intangibles like the reputation of and trust in institutions like the BBC” and indeed in the rights of the British people to choose how they are governed alas now stolen and given away by the politicians.

          The only the prevailing consensus the BBC seems to follows is the agenda of the powers that be in the EU and UK, an ever increasing state sector, the interest of the green industry and their evil state subsidies and the interests of BBC staff.

        • uanime5
          Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          Given that all the politicians, including the prime minister, somehow missed the discrepancies between the police log and the CCTV it’s hardly fair to just blame the BBC for this.

          Global warming causes climate change so there’s no contradiction there.

          The eurozone crisis was resolved by the eurozone (mainly by bailing Greece out), so the reporting was accurate.

          Just because you don’t like what the BBC is saying doesn’t make it wrong.

          • oldtimer
            Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

            Yet another example of changing the issue.

            The issue in question was the spin put out by the BBC that they are bound by their Charter. The reality is that their Guidelines provide a get out clause. It enables them to evade the Charter, and gives them an excuse not to undertake investigative reporting.

            Your assertion that “global warming causes climate change” is meaningless. Global warming, when it occurs, is a manifestation of climate change not a cause of it – just like the global cooling of successive ice ages.

            It is news to me that the EZ crisis is resolved. If that is indeed so, why is Germany`s finance minister preparing new austerity measures to cope with the expected costs which will fall on German taxpayers?

            My problem with the BBC is what it is not saying – its absence of serious investigative reporting on key issues of the day.

          • Edward
            Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

            Uanime5
            Do you really think the eurozone crisis is resolved?
            We are still in the middle of it.
            I’m amazed you could write such nonsense without laughing as I did when I read it.

          • uanime5
            Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

            @oldtimer

            The BBC charter has a get-out clause so they don’t have to give airtime to cranks who have no evidence to back up their claims. This is why they don’t give practitioners of herbal medicine air time whenever real doctors are giving medical advice.

            You’re the one who has it backwards. Global warming is causing the global temperature to rise, which is changing the climates throughout the world.

            @Edward

            Given that no one expects the euro to collapse anymore the crisis is clearly over.

        • Bob
          Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

          @oldtimer
          “priceless intangibles like the reputation of and trust in institutions like the BBC”

          I lost my trust in the BBC when I realised that the management had been taken over by left wing political activists.

          Their reputation is in tatters.

      • margaret brandreth-j
        Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        Don’t you think that he was probably tacitly responding to Prince Charles’ comments?
        I have worked in the NHS since 1968 in and out of PFI’s and in employment where all want to salt the top of wages and deny nurses superann at the same time as ensuring all the office workers get that pension.I have studied day in day out for 40 years , been denied positions, within the mainstream NHS having taken responsibility for the higher ups as they cascade blame onto others,
        The problem came when they tried to devalue the role of the nurse who looked after the finances as they would domestically. Of course the money makers saw an industry where this almost charitable profession of nursing could be highjacked and pounds made out of the hard clinical and medical work we did by splitting the roles and taking ownership. These are the type of people spending and taking the nations money outof our NHS.
        A more recent type of this insult to our profession is the title we are now given for prescribing ‘non medical prescribers’ Nurses study from books called Medicine for Nurses and then research further,we are not allowed to administer medication without the knowledge of medical conditions, side effects, conditions given for, prescribing details, we can overide any prescriber and not give if it is a danger, therefore we are trained and take full medical responsibility and this is the title given for our efforts. What are we to prescribe if not medicines? You may think this is a personal dig and it is ,yet it typifies the ongoing plagiarism of skills and capture of human resource which will be crowned and given to the DR who actually considers that some antiseptics are better than others as in TV advertising. This is because they can see private pounds and power in the distance not the care of our nations peoples.

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

          Margaret

          Many nurses who have since retired or are close to retirement hold similar views to you.

          Nursing has changed in the last 20 years, it is no longer about actually spending most of your time nursing and comforting people who are ill.

          Shame.

          • margaret brandreth-j
            Posted December 30, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            Thankyou for your recognition of a set of people who have put their lives into trying to stop the spending of money ruling the way we work. I personally though will not be retiring and in fact am taking further qualifications to keep me working as long as possible autonomously . Nurses are now working into their 70’s. My next door neighbour worked until 86. This scenario is the future and was made by the business sector. Those who retired at 55 with a pension are the lucky ones. We now need to work , help our families and clog up positions for new staff due to the need to survive.
            Of course we are angry . Personally it has its benefits , we need to keep healthy and as young as possible to keep going.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Good for you JR.

      Can you perhaps do anything about Osborne’s foolish heart/head so we do not have to suffer?

      For example all these pointless, bird and bat chomping, over expensive and intrusive wind turbines. Is it better to follow the heart of the gullible greens rather than the the logic of science, economics and engineering? Or indeed suffer the over taxation of the rich, which is clearly in some foolish hearts, but clearly damages both tax receipts and jobs?

      • uanime5
        Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        Given that the wealthy don’t need to use food banks but the poor do it’s clear who is being overtaxed.

      • Bazman
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

        So the rich can put more money abroad? The idea that they all create businesses and the trickle of oats to sparrows is real is figment of your imagination and blind right wing think.

      • sm
        Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        The overtaxation of the average earners or the rich or super rich as a percentage of total economic gains?

        If the unemployed/working poor have no taxable income, its probably not because of fancy accounting & legal trickery.Ever wonder why NI & PAYE wont be merged?

        What is driving the in-equality gap and disparity of wealth and economic gains?

        Well QE, ZIRP, unlimited migration and a plainly lunatic benefit system which attracts inward migration. Add to that “freetrade” without minimum acceptable labour conditons overseas?

        The bird chompers will be there in 10-20 years with very minimal marginal cost, the fantasy wealth effect built on fiat debt will not, unless it is made real by financial repression on the productive economy.

        If i had a choice between a QE fuelled ponzi property/equity/bond scam and productive wind turbines. I would choose the wind turbine. The answer is obvious. Its real and productive.

        Any wealth (honest or dishonest) stored in a fiat currency is a politicians/bankers wet dream made possible by inflation on the basics costs of life.

    • Disaffected
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      Spot on. Not just free iPads but numerous computers each year- where are they going?? IPSA a toothless wonder and provide answers for MPs. Look at how many sets of crockery do they get through, there must be a lot of Greek weddings and John Lewis has just the ones they love to destroy!! Cromwell the Uk public needs you ASAP.

    • zorro
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      John, for an example of how the state sector costs do not compete with the private sector. How much are these iPads supposed to cost/running costs?

      zorro

    • Bazman
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      The MP’s drinking habits in the bit after was more interesting.

      Dr Sarah Wollaston, an Conservative MP, has also accused some MPs of having “no idea what they are voting for” because of the heavy drinking culture of Westminster.
      Mr Bercow stopped short of recommending higher drink prices, as the Commission said the cost of alcohol is comparable to nearby pubs in Westminster.

      Trebles all round!

    • zorro
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Come on lifelogic, keep with it Cast Elastic is a ‘fruit ninja’ addict…..

      zorro

  4. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Personally I have no comment to make on this subject apart from NHS medicines, that is. We always throw away the unused bits anyway.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

      It is probably cheaper to discard them, as returning and checking for safe reissue is probably more expensive in most cases.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 1, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        More silliness. They do not reissue the drugs they are disposed of in a correct manner. If you pour them down the toilet they enter the eco system and cause a large number of problems to wildlife in the food chains, but I suppose you would claim that is just green nonsense with no proof. Would you pour used engine oil down the drain?

  5. Old Albion
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I could take take the crutch given to my son, when he damaged his ankle, back to the hospital.
    But they would charge an extortionate parking fee while i waited at reception. So i won’t bother.
    I could take it to a hospital in Wales or Scotland i suppose?

    • APL
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Old Albion: “I could take it to a hospital in Wales or Scotland i suppose?”

      But think of the Green house gasses such a journey would create!!!

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Old Albion

      Agree hospital car parking charges are a disgrace.

      A few years ago after my mother had a stroke and was hospitalised for some time, I spent over £700 in car park charges during my frequent visits.

      Could not park in any surrounding streets because of double yellow lines.

      Why go by car, because it was 25 miles away and I was working at the time, so it was the only time cost effective way to get there.

      The other farce, guess how long you are going to be at the hospital and pay in advance, difficult if you are taking somone to A&E or have an outpatients appointment, were waiting can be for a number of hours.

  6. JoolsB
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    When I took my crutches back to the hospital a few years ago when I didn’t need them anymore after breaking my leg, the staff were in a complete state of shock. They actually said to me “‘nobody ever bothers to bring them back” The obvious anwer is to make people leave a deposit but if the Tories were to be the ones to introduce such a system where money changes hands, we can imagine the headlines in the left wing press and the resulting lies and spin from Labour and the Lib Dems in their quest to try and convince the electorate that the Tories want to privatise the NHS.

    The public sector has and always will be indifferent to waste – it’s only taxpayers’ money afterall and we need look no further than politicians to see proof of that.

    • sm
      Posted December 29, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Introduce a small deposit scheme which repays on return like the old glass bottle scheme. It would surely tie into reducing consumption or maybe its just not economic in our madhouse of a world. The cost of staffing the scheme may dwarf the benefit.

  7. DavidB
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    We stayed in an hotel in Taipei which had a pricelist of the rooms contents including the mattress! I wondered how anyone managed to fit a mattress into a suitcase.

    There would be a huge administrative cost to taking back unused medicines. How do you determine what has not been tampered with? There are some charities I believe who accept medicines for recycling. Perhaps the big issue with the medicines is that those taking them don’t realise how expensive some of them are. We are used to seeing packets of paracetamol for a few pence in a supermarket and its easy to assume that the stuff prescribed is similarly not intrinsically valuable. Perhaps a concentration of all patients and medical staff’s minds could be done by printing in bold print on the packaging, the suggested retail prices of the drugs being supplied. I know I appreciate what the NHS provides me, secure and horrified in the knowledge that some Americans on patient forums cannot even afford the drugs I am prescribed.

  8. colliemum
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    On NHS waste: a big culprit are the GP surgeries in the case of repeat prescriptions. Once something is entered on their database, you’ll get it, even if you’ve made abundantly clear that it is no longer needed. And the pharmacies hand it out and won’t take it back once it’s been labelled. Some of those drugs are pretty expensive, and I wish the various health boards were told to keep an eye on their GPs.
    Ah well, I suppose someone is making money from those “errors” …

    • David John Wilson
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      There are many problems with repeat prescriptions that vary between surgeries. The practice that I use insists that each repetition is specifically requested although this can be done online.

      My problem is that a few years ago they stopped issuing prescriptions whic h lasted more that a month. I have been taking the same medicine for fifteen years. Two small pills each week. This means that each month I have to get another prescription, free due to my age, wasting doctor’s, pharmicist’s, ancillary staff’s and my time and also the cost of the paperwork, bottle transport to the surgery etc. There would be huge savings by letting people like me have a two or three month prescriptiom.

  9. David in Kent
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    The question you raise about unused medicines is an interesting one.
    The NHS attempts to limit waste by limiting quantities aupplied at one time but this increases the cost of distribution in the case of chronic use which is itself wasteful.
    Something like three qusrters of medicines prescribed are generic, where the NHS is just paying for the cost of manufacture, plus margin and distribution. Many of those pills are cheap as chips and it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of attempting to control them.
    Some new medicines are another matter altogether, because the NHS is also paying for development they can cost thousands per package. Clearly opened packaging cannot be returned as you would have no idea what you are getting back. Health and Safety are not keen on return of unopened blister packs because control of them cannot be documented (typical bureaucracy) but perhaps a deal could be struck with the manufacturers to return them as an exchange.

  10. Nick Heath
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I used to work for a private company running about 8 NHS GPs surgeries, and I can say that although there was rarely any formal “stock take” of some of the more expensive equipment, very little was wasted or simply left sat in a corner collecting dust, as this of course would have affected our bottom line; The exception to this was office PCs, as they were provided by the PCT. We always either had a shortage or huge oversupply of PCs or peripheral devices, which would clearly have been a cost to the PCT. Furthermore, as we were not responsible for the maintenance or good working order of the machines, there was no incentive for us to look after the equipment as we could simply order another one if one broke. Had we been in charge of our own IT budget, we could have been much more effective.

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    On one occasion I went to collect my father after a short stay in hospital only to find that he was still dressed in NHS pyjamas. When I raised this with the nursing staff I was told that he could go home in them. When I said that I didn’t want to take him home in pyjamas nor did I wish to have to make another journey to bring them back I was told: “oh that won’t be necessary just keep them”. I insisted that he was helped to change into his own day clothes before taking him home. On another occasion he returned from hospital in an ambulance and they left an NHS blanket and again said he could keep it. We eventually arranged for it to be returned. On the efficiency side my parents were loaned a number devices by social services for home use such as bed rails, chair height adjusters and walking frames all of which were collected after they were no longer needed. There is massive waste though including unused medicines, as I have witnessed many times with elderly parents. No doubt the pharmaceutical industry is quite happy with such government waste.

  12. Pete the Bike
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I am constantly amazed that people with long and wide experience of life still believe despite evidence of 2000 years that any government department or service can be made, in any way, efficient. The Roman Empire died of too much inefficient government and, unless they were militarily defeated, so has every other empire since. It won’t be long before the USA and EU go the same way taking us with them, that’s if we don’t manage to finish ourselves off first. The saying “Less is more” in never more true than when applied to a coercive organization like government.

  13. JimF
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Sorry, but all the time this is Other Peoples’ Money you are wishing in the wind. Hertz and Europcar would be out of business if they controlled costs like this. Why not take deposits on items lent, repayable on their return? It;s pretty basic stuff.

  14. Boudicca
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    My late father was given two “perching stools”, a 3-pronged walking stick and a two-tier tray on wheels when he came out of hospital to recuperate after a major illness.

    When he died a year or so later, I rang the hospital to return them and was told there was no facility for them to be collected/returned. I had to contact another organisation and I delivered them back myself.

    Madness!

  15. Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I found it difficult to return crutches to my A&E department and as the car parking charges mounted I decided to give up and left them with a receptionist who did not want them. A system where you return such items to your GP surgery seems worth looking at since most have regular sample collections by the local hospital. When treated at a BUPA hospital my wife was sold a pair of crutches for the low price of £10. So we are the proud owners of these, perhaps I should take them everywhere just in case.

    Biggest waste in my experience is photocopying. A system at my company where this was charged to a specific contract, rather than the overheads, reduced photocopying significantly.

  16. libertarian
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Totally agree John, the public sector waste is phenomenal. In a debate with a local government politician recently, he told me that one reason they don’t use local suppliers is that they get massive buying power by buying in bulk from large national companies. So I checked. The cost of a biro pen bought by the council is MORE than you pay buying it in WH Smiths.

    So as well as proper audit and some better purchasing decisions I would also suggest that 2013 is the year of a zero based budget in the public sector

    • zorro
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely, they are hopeless at negotiating effective contracts. IT costs and servicing are the most eye watering throughout the public services…a licence to print money.

      zorro

  17. Leslie Singleton
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    If someone could come up with a way to make blister packs tamper proof that would be good, alternatively given that it is possible to make bottles secure (“Do not use if the seal has been broken”) maybe there is some mileage in not using blister packs but instead giving out the medicine in small bottles (say six little bottles at each ‘repeat’ but perhaps only one in the case of an initial prescription which may well not be repeated). That way maybe the unused bottles could be taken back. I personally have been forced to give back for destruction whole pharmacies of medication, some very expensive of course.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Postscriptum–Meant to add that these days the dinky bottles (or at least the bottles given to me) are plastic (ie cheap and disposable) so the cost of the extra bottles should be acceptable if unused medicine saved–perhaps only for the more expensive stuff.

  18. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Some of the equipment is quite cheap to provide and not worth the costs of recovery and cleaning. It is more economic to ‘write them off’. It depends on how you account for your costs, of course.

    However it it was arranged for all local councils to collect such items in ‘special’ bags along with recycling wastes then perhaps the costs of recovery could be reduced enough to be economic.

  19. Martin
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I must be unlucky when I use the public sector – most of the stuff I come in contact with is usually well used/worn out!

    Talking to people I know in GP surgeries the biggest waste is no show patients. Folk don’t treat hairdressers or garages like that – the appointments are scarce and service expensive. The NHS should charge for no shows. GPs are well paid (often more than MPs) – no shows are a complete loss for the exchequer.

  20. David John Wilson
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Both public and private companies need to reduce the number of different levels at which stock is held. In many office buildings you will find a stationery office, a stationery cupboard in each office and ech individual holding their pwn stock of stationery.

    I worked in an office some years ago where due to an embarrasing experience a particular senior manager banned the purchase of paper clips. It was about seven years later that they actually started to run out of them and by then very few people could remember why the central stores were banned from purchasing them.

  21. Farmer Geddon
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Waste of time.

    How many MPs have been successfully prosecuted for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fraudulent claims?

    reply several have been prosecuted and sent to prison.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Several being about 3? Several are back in government like (name left out as the person was never charged with a criminal offence)or still in the Lords with no action being taken.

      • Bazman
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        Sorry officer I was drunk at the time. The barman was spiking my whiskey with doubles. House of Lords for you my son.

      • zorro
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

        You wouldn’t be referring to David Laws by any chance….?……He was actually Chief Secretary to the Treasury for 17 days before resigning due to the disclosure of his Parliamentary expenses claims, described by the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee as “a series of serious breaches of the rules, over a considerable period of time”. As a result of these ‘serious breaches’, he was suspended from Parliament by vote of the House of Commons.

        zorro

    • Farmer Geddon
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

      A few token scapegoats – the majority of MPs were stealing from the taxpayer. The troughing continues.

  22. Remington Norman
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Government is an unsuitable agent for disbursing taxpayers’ money. Profligacy and waste abound, procurement is lax and there seems to be no recognition of the need to deliver value for money or cost effectiveness that ordinary households consider paramount.

    Waste: unaccounted money given to the EU, much foreign aid, defence procurement, unaccountable quango expenditure, failed IT projects etc etc. The areas you suggest may deliver savings but no amount of crutches and unwanted wooden legs will compensate for poor value PFI contracts or the billions defence chiefs squandered dithering over the spec of the Typhoon Eurofighter.

    One has the impression that central government has only the haziest notion of where the money with which it is entrusted goes. Until a value oriented mindset is established, the spendthrift culture is unlikely to change.

  23. Bill
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    While resident in France (for work) I was given by vets, without charge, medication for my cat on a dozen or more occasions. The vet explained that these were items returned, as superfluous, by pet-owners. Additionally, I have never understood why the government does not insist that all ministries, all quangos and all government contractors achieve and maintain ISO9000 accreditation. Not only would billions be saved by the quality of management, but the, often life-critical, NHS instrumentation would be subject to proper calibration processes, which is not the case now. Look at ISO9000 back to its origins and search ‘Duran’. It’s old stuff, but tried, tested and effective. I can find no evidence of it being taken up by government.

    • uanime5
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      ISO9000 is only useful for ensuring manufactured goods meet certain quality criteria. As it’s not useful for improving services it will be of little help to the public sector.

      • alan jutson
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        uanime5

        ISO acreditation is nothing about quality of product, it is simply a paperwork tracking system which records all details of any component part.
        The system is designed to give and record information only.

        Thus if you can prove by paperwork that your product is the worst perfoming product in the world, you could get ISO 9000 approval for your company, simply because you can prove it with paperwork.

        Under the system nothing can be decided, manufactured, purchased, approved, completed, delivered, or even returned, without going through a very extensive paper trail.

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          John

          No need to hold this comment in moderation until you check it out.

          Ive worked with ISO 9000 so aware of what it is (a bloody expensive nightmare) and what you have to do.

          When I had my own Company I was approached a number of times to see if I was interested in acreditation and I told them in my opinion, it was a complete waste of time, gave them the answer in my first posting here, and they simply agreed it is a tracking and recording system only.

      • Edward
        Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Uanime5,
        This the second time youve made me laugh on this thread.
        You plainly know little or nothing about the quality standard ISO 9000 and what it can do, if properly implemented, by an organisation.

        When you say its only useful for manufacturing and to ensure goods meet quality criteria, these are the two most common myths from bar room bores, when this topic comes up in conversation.
        The other ones are extra paperwork and the need to label everything.

        This quality management system is applicable to all and every kind of business, not just manufacturing, and from a one person businesses to multi nationals employing thousands and Government departments.

        Bill is right in saying that following the business management principles of ISO 9000 and the ideas of quality gurus like Duran (and Dr Demming) would be beneficial for all Government departments quangos and Councils etc.

        • alan jutson
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          Edward

          Agree it can be applied to any business, as it is simply a paperwork system which sets out proceedures for everything.

          The problem you choose to set your own standards which the system is to maintain.

          Thus it is certainly NOT A QUALITY APPROVAL SYSTEM.

        • uanime5
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          The fact that you couldn’t explain how a quality management system is meant to help a service based industry leads me to believe that you don’t know very much about the function of the ISO 9000.

          Also ISO 9000 is detrimental for one person businesses and even some SMEs because it provides additional costs and very few benefits. It’s generally only cost effective for larger companies that need help ensuring their processes are effective.

          • Edward
            Posted December 29, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

            Uni
            service industries are the fastest growing sector utilising the quality standard
            There is no evidence it is detrimental to small companies or one person businesses and many report big savings and improvements in efficiency
            Its not a cure all solution and its principles just suggest a way of managing an organization for the benefit of its customers.
            Something many organisations fail to do.
            But I realise your mind is made up.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

          It is not going improve bad management and their happiness to just carry one taking the money. Can also slow down and stifle ideas for the future.

        • Credible
          Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          ISO 9000 is a box ticking exercise.

          • Edward
            Posted December 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

            Credible, It is true that there is an element of extra administration, but a telling statistic is that of the businesses closing down each year 98% do not have ISO 9000 accreditation.
            Therefore it could be said that a company following the requirements of the management standard greatly reduces their chances of failure.
            Its all in the standard’s 8 main principles.
            Number one being Customer Focus.
            Something State organisations are forgetting to apply.
            Which is where I came in originally!

  24. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    On medicines. Many products are sold to the NHS via prescriptions in quantities where a quantity for a larger amount is less more expensive than a smaller amount and consequently there is waste.
    Paracetamol is 20 p in some big stores yet scripts for paracetamol still go to the chemist.
    If patients change medicaton because it is less suitable as a disease progresses or for adverse physiological responses which occur as a result of the medicines, then there is much waste. A lot of medication of a type is trial and error and very difficult to monitor. We have to think individual.
    Walking sticks I agree there are many hanging around in unlikely places which are not accounted for.
    Some of the products used in patient care in the NHS cannot be used in a cost effective way in comparison to other private organisations. It is time consuming and would cost the NHS much more for example in ‘counting swabs and coding them’ and providing paper work and staff to do so. Practicalability needs to be demonstrated before new supposedly money making schemes are brought on board.
    Many things are mended before they are broken in the name of progress. Introducing software and computer packages is time consuming ..taking time away from the patient, needing extra training and new salaried staff to collate. The full balance sheet should be taken into consideration , not just what one department can save for the manager to shine out for promotion .
    More and more unecessary training is taking place again taking time away from the patient , because it is mandatory . The training is frequently poor quality with the staff attending the training having far greater knowledge and individual understanding about the subject .

  25. pipesmoker
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Some years ago my wife broke her ankle on St Michael’s Mount and went to the hospital in Penzance where she was well looked after and given a pair of crutches. We were asked to return them and told that delivering them to Burton upon Trent railway station there would be no charge and they would end up back at the hospital.

    I took them to the railway station where an officious (adjective left out) man, despite explanation, said it would cost me £18 something to return them and he refused to budge. I then went to local General Post Office sorting office and they actually did it for a couple of quid which I was happy to pay.

    JR those are the people that need sorting. Put some men (words left out) in a position of authority and their impotence clouds their judgement!

  26. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    i.e more expensive for fewer tablets.

  27. Winston Smith
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    After my only ever stay in hospital for appendicitis, I was given a bag contaning boxes of three different painkillers. The nurse pointed to one box and said, “don’t use those, they are really strong”. I used a small number over the next few days, When I enquired about returning the unused boxes I was told they will just destroy them, even if the boxes of tablets are unused.

  28. REPay
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    One mindset that should be ruthlessly tackled is the “we must spend all our budget to get the same or more next year.” The Treasury might help here. I recall that my MP sent me a spreadsheet of the ideas to cut waste that came from inside the civil service. I think this might have been part of the Philip Green initiative. Any news on how much saved or was it an eye-catching initiative?

  29. Barbara
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    On 24th August 2012, I fell downstairs and broke my ankle and tibya, resulting in surgery and aftercare. I was given crutches which I still use. I have a disabled husband, so we were then given certain items for our use within the home to help with mobility etc. I had to use a porta potty until other arrangements could be made, my husband as ‘dropped foot’ which means he cannot feel it below his knee in his left foot and leg. Getting upstairs as been difficult. I was also given a chair to just sit on at the sink and do the ironing etc, but it’s used for other duties too. A foot stool as well. I have received a phone call about the items borrowed, which I signed for, after 8 weeks; I still needed them so they have put them down for indefinate use, but they still remain the hospital’s property. The porta potty was finished with as we had to have a lift installed for us both, to access the toilet and bed upstairs. We received no help with the lift and had to raid our savings to provide it; no problem its for our use. We were two of the ‘strivers’ this government as talked about working well past retirement age. I was annoyed as those who don’t work get it all done for free; I asked for help not the full cost and was told ‘its either all or nothing’.
    Dudley’s Russall’s Hall hosptital appear to be on the ball for equipment by asking for it back. For the return of the porta potty it took three phonecalls in all. I suppose we all have to set to and make do and mend for ourselves these days, but when you’ve worked for over 44 years and get no help at all, and those who don’t bother appear to have it all, it grates. I shall return all things when I’m back walking normally. As for drugs, when doctors over prescribe and some are left unopened its such waste, in fact the drugs I had to take into hospital were over the date by a few days, still worked and they were removed from me and new ones prescribed, I acutally commented on the waste throwing them away. I would have used them up before asking for some more.

  30. cosmic
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s better the NHS continues to forget about all the walking sticks etc.

    If we have a formal programme whereby it’s returned, it will inevitably spawn a huge, useless bureaucracy to receive it, test it, sterilise it and reissue it and it will work out cheaper to do as we are doing.

  31. Antisthenes
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    The public sector always will be wasteful and inefficient and you will be forever asking the same questions as how to change that situation. The simple answer of course is not to have providers of services and products in the public sector but in the private one. Of course there are some provisions that only government can undertake such as the police and the military but few others.

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely right.

  32. David Langley
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    A small returns department manned by volunteers which would not be onerous would probably result im much kit and medicines etc being returned. I have had to hire wheel chairs on several occasions from the red cross for some family members.
    If we threw out those EU prisoners languishing in our jails because the authorities lack the balls to return them which is legal, we would have enough cash saved to equip us all with Aqua diving gear on a non return basis.
    I used to hold the keys to the stationary cupboard, what power, show me the used one and you get a replacement. If any boss took a look in departments desk draws they would find enough gear to equip a small African Country. When its time to go home much gear goes with those darling workers. A guy at Dagenham once made the news for stealing over a number of years a car, I think he had some problems with the bodywork though. If its not screwed down it will get stolen.

  33. Posted December 27, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that far more money is wasted by staff who treat expensive (or even cheap) equipment with a total lack of care. You’d be surprised at what can be “accidentally” done to a desktop computer, and as for laptops, they get trodden on, run over by vehicles, coffee soaked keyboards or simply knocked of the desk. Rarely are any serious questions asked by anyone as to how or why it happened. Then, of course there are a thousand good reasons why individual staff must have one of the latest and best laptops, regardless of any necessity, and if they can’t get one any other way, well the old one can always be left on the train.
    But it is not only computers, it is virtually everything that is issued to staff that can be abused without any apparent redress. I accept that it is only a small minority of staff that act in this cavalier manner with departmental property, but the cost must be huge.

  34. Steven_L
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    A lot of councils insist on giving you a phone and saying you will get billed for personal calls and texts, but they never bother to bill you for them. I’ve only paid one phone bill, for about a fiver, in the last 4 years. I’m not really much of a phone user, and heavier users (i.e. young women) tend to buy their own iPhones as they wouldn’t be seen dead with a clunky old handset like the one I’m using (I nearly typed ‘like mine’ there!) I really hate bills though so just use what the council give me and wait for them to bill me. Seasons greetings, and a happy new year!

  35. uanime5
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Some major problems with returning unused medicines is that it can be dangerous to use them if they’re:

    1) Out of date. Unless the medicine itself has its expiry date on it then you can’t be sure that it’s still safe to use. It’s also illegal to sell expired medicine.

    2) Lack their original packaging as this makes it difficult to determine what this medicine is. It’s also illegal to sell medicines without their information leaflet.

    3) If they haven’t been stored properly they can become less effective at best, toxic at worst.

    From a safety perspective it’s better to just throw them away than risk someone getting ill from these medicines.

    Also it seems that the EU isn’t going to allow the UK to repatriate powers, so that makes any referendums on this issue somewhat pointless:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/9767877/Europe-would-unravel-if-Britain-were-to-repatriate-powers-says-Herman-van-Rompuy.html

    • zorro
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Yes John, the President has spoken, uanime5 wants you to kneel before him…..

      zorro

  36. Monty
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    We have, in the recent past, bought items for several of the golden oldies in our family. Tri-walkers (very good), stair lifts (excellent way of allowing a frail person to stay in their own home), secure risers to put under the legs of your bed, a nebuliser for chesty patients. As our old folk, one by one, passed away, we offered these things to our local GPs committee, and offered to pay for them to be re-conditioned where appropriate, so that other patients could get the benefit of them. No deal. They wouldn’t even consider it.
    We managed to find new homes for these things by simply getting the word out to friends and neighbours, and folks at church, but it can be touch and go when you are having to clear out a house in readiness for completion of sale.
    We kept the folding wheelchair ourselves. It’s the family wheelchair, always ready to be pressed into service, should anyone fall off a ladder. But for folk who are able to walk, but just need that extra bit of support and stability, I thoroughly recommend those tri-walkers. Great for toddling around outside, and in the house.

  37. Matt
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Too late. Billions of pounds worth of family silver was sold off considerably below its market value in the 80s. Now the next generation has to pay for it. Thanks for that.

  38. rick hamilton
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    Here in Japan the national health system is excellent and – like most countries – charges a small percentage for all treatment, except for the very poor. People are paying and they expect, and get, good service. If they are dissatisfied they go to another hospital/ clinic/ doctor and the bad ones go out of business. Yes, healthcare is a business where efficiency and cost control matter, get used to it or go bankrupt.

    Giving everything out absolutely free is just plain stupid because people don’t value anything and you get uncontrolled waste. The Japanese have a saying for it: “There’s nothing so expensive as something that’s free”.

  39. Bazman
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    A couple of walking sticks using a bit more antiseptic cream and a few out of date packets of aspirin is not the problem with the NHS in this area. There is a massive culture of petty theft among even the most respectable staff and a general lack of security of often extremely valuable equipment. Not a laptop or dressing gown with NHS of the back. I’m talking blatant theft of medical equipment that is then exported specialist equipment stool to order and other basic expensive stuff like a childs cot costing many thousands of pounds that would be useful for decades.

  40. David Langley
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Unbelievable what is coming out of our leaders mouths. How on earth does Cameron and Clegg ever believe they represent us? What a load of rubbish they are now reported as uttering on the EU. How come they dont get it? Everybody in England seems to understand the basics of the EU project and the costs of staying in, with mounting regulation and interference in our lives.
    The amount of untruths and rubbish about our “Leadership”in the EU when it is patently obvious they just want to dictate to us and take our money and our balls. I have now to believe that the Cameron agenda is about mistaken ideals, personal enrichment and influence, and a total lack of self belief and belief in our country and the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
    The fact are being misrepresented and that surely is a crime against the British people. Why should we fall apart when we leave the project? What rot, we are leaders arent we? Anyway Rumpy Pumpy thinks Cameron has the wrong idea, and should come alongside like everyone else and be a good boy otherwise they wont let him play with them at Soldiers etc.

  41. Tony Houghton
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I have not had time to ge through all the comments, John, so somebody may have written something in mitigation for those who work in the State system.
    As you probably know I spent 33 years in the Royal Air Force and was lucky enough to be selected for Canadian Staff College, rather than the RAF Staff College at Bracknell. During the Canadian course I wrote my 4K word Thesis – called ‘Inquiry’ at their College – on ‘Does the RAF Need a Financial Management System'; the UK MOD did not yet have such a system in 1972. My Inquiry was well received and it finished up, purely by chance, with the Financial Adviser at the Canadian National Defence HQ in Ottawa, because my paper had been passed on to my previous member of the College Directing Staff (DS), who had moved on from the College to be Military Assistant to the Financial Adviser. You never know it may have influenced the thinking of our new Governor of the B of E at some stage!
    Shortly after I returned to the UK the MOD introduced its own Financial Management System and the waste in both the MOD and the three Services was considerably reduced. This earlier experience of writing my Thesis stood me in good stead later when, in my semi- retirement, I was on the Staff of the RAF Staff College in Bracknell where I ran the Subsistence and Contingency Budget for the College, among other things, and had to account, to the penny, to the Commandant for all the College Staff Travel and Away Accommodation. So perhaps, sometimes, your readers may be a little hard on our State employees.
    One final point. I was posted on to the MOD Staff immediately after leaving Canada, to the Weapons office, where I was responsible for the policy for all the RAF nuclear and conventional weapons, which involved also looking at what sort of weapons required in the future. The MOD is often criticised for their budgetting of this exercise, but the one factor that is often forgotten that this expenditure is not the same as going to a show room and buying a new car. The procurement process has to be set against a continuously changing prospective enemy threat. I had a sign on my MOD office wall, which said: ‘An Air Force without weapons is an unscheduled airline! There is no point in procuring weapons that don’t counter the latest threat!’

  42. peter davies
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    In a slick IT environment you have a thing called configuration management. A simple database that itemizes and tracks assets. All public services, be it local councils, NHS whatever could and should have the same sort of thing so the onus is placed on the recipient of the item to return it when no longer needed.

    Appreciate there may be instances such as in the case of people who die where sensitivity may be needed but this type of thing should be easy enough to implement and maintain. If you take something away you simply sign a piece of paper to the effect, the database logs the recipients name and address – if they don’t bring it back they get billed.

    At the same time why not send Gordon Brown a bill for all the gold he sold off at rock bottom prices after announcing it in parliament first to depress prices?

  43. Jenny
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    My parents experience mirrors that above. My mum has a long term condition and has been wheelchair bound for years. They have several used wheelchairs in the garage which were issued by the NHS. However they were told not to return them as they couldn’t be used again. And to be fair they aren’t in great condition having been heavily used. I can appreciate the NHS needs to be very careful with any equipment which is reissued as the cost of refurbishing and testing it might outweigh the cost of purchasing new. But a scheme through which these can be recycled to those in need but perhaps not meriting an NHS issue new chair, perhaps via local charities, would be great.

  44. Jon
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    First example was on the train for my commute to work. Across the way I could over hear the conversation of two public sector building managers. They were talking about their week long trips to Edinburgh. In order to “get something back” or “to stick it to them” they always parked in the short stay carpark at Heathrow or Luton. One boasted that the last trip (this was a little while ago) cost £1500 in parking charges.

    Another commuting example was where I was standing. Next to me was the council “worker” and his young apprentice of which he was coaching in the ways of council work. He was in his 50’s and holding onto the pole with both hands swinging from side to side as children do at the park. His wisdom and career was basically that he had got onto any and every committee that he could find. It meant he never did his job or went to his work place. He got expenses for travel and hotel and food to all these committees around the country. Usually could knock off by lunchtime and shop or visit family or take in the sites. The committee subject as he was telling his young understudy didn’t matter as you didn’t need to know anything about it, you just had to site for a couple of hours and that was it.

    Next is related to an FSA fine that I noticed a bank – ex building society got. A laptop whet missing in that large company. It said that personal data was secured and no harm done but that a tad under £1m fine was imposed. Not long after the FSA had to admit it regularly looses laptops every month. Also HMRC lost I believe over 30 in a few months.

    I know someone who works on that Blair project to install a nationwide NHS project. They have worked on it as a senior project manager since its inception which I think is over a dozen years. The £25bn odd is spent and there is no database. However they still have this career paying well and accruing a great pension. Thats a long time to run a project with no outcome.

    I keep getting left those green boxes for various recyclable items. I have two in the back garden, 3 in the front and another one has appeared at the gate, a nubile one looking for another home, can’t be more than a couple of months old. I can’t take on anymore of these strays. It would be nice to if the stalk left it at a home that didn’t have a green box but they all have plenty.

    One area I would like sorted is our funding of the unions. The Taxpayer Alliance has done a survey on the millions we pay to fund permanent union reps and they pensions. This should come from the union subscriptions and not the taxpayer. Union rep work should be limited to no more than 1 week a year for a civil servant and the numbers allowed to be seconded in any department should be limited.
    I also wonder about the buildings the unions occupy in London. Maybe they are paid out of subscriptions along with all the equipment but a bit suspicious.

    • Bazman
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      What do you have to say about the British Bankers Association (BBA) taking of public money to support banking? The British financial services industry spent more than £92m last year lobbying politicians and regulators in an ‘economic war of attrition’ that has secured a string of policy victories after being largely bailed out by the taxpayer. Some hapless union rep doing a bit of lubrication between workers and the government is not even on the scale and how many of the City workers have scammed their expenses and taken massive amounts of public money for failure. You seem not to have this in your head. Any reason?

      • Jon
        Posted December 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        The rapid increase in leveraging, debt and credit was something actively promoted and supported by the likes of Brown, Len McClusky and Bob Crow. They still support it today as the answer. They may for political reasons have chosen to chastise the banks after the crash but they did what they wanted them to do and still do. Some of the rest of us wanted the opposite approach of more savings and less debt and have been criticising this approach from start when Brown attacked savings and increased leveraging from the start.
        That said we are where we are and this industry which accounts for about 20% of our economy is under attack from the EU. Without this industry there would be no NHS workers. It wouldn’t surprise me if the government joined forces with the banks to stop the EU trying to move the financial industry from London to Frankfurt.
        An RMT strike can cost London’s economy upto £250m a day. Those other hapless union reps work for the politically motivated unions on a full time basis. They cost £100s a year. They also lobby persistently to extend debt levels and to allow banks the means to provide that debt regardless of the consequences. Unions should be privately funded. I can see a need though for governments to invest in industries that pay for our public services and provide the population with jobs.

        • Bazman
          Posted December 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          Is this some sort of attempt to blame the financial mess on he unions? Interesting how many on this site are so anti EU, but forget that most of the exports from this country by ‘our’ companies are actually foreign owned and have little interest in the financial consequences or the workforce of this country and are often state subsidised companies from other countries carrying out practices on the British consumer and workforce that they are are forbid by law to do to their own native customers.

  45. Jon
    Posted December 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Another point on the NHS database that never happened but cost us £25bn. I remember several years a go she said each desktop computer at a surgery cost £2500. Where are the economies of scale? This didn’t include anything else just the base unit and screen. It makes me wonder about things like office furniture supply.

    Still its good to have a government that is looking at these things. I read the office chairs at the Home Office cost £500 from an Italian designer and Hariett Harman installed £80,000 “contemplation pod” at her department.

  46. sm
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Why not just make better choices and decisions at a strategic level.
    1) Open source software?
    2) Removing any prescription bias by any hidden or otherwise financial rewards to the buyer/gatekeepers.
    3) A system which encourages the user to use generics where suitable, maybe a lottery type random reward.
    4) Discouraging non-competitive behavior by big pharma, by ensuring barriers to entry are curbed eg alternative natural or tradtional remedies. I wonder what drugs are being used in Greece. Perhaps everything is blackmarket? Interesting electricity useage figures.
    5) All NHS purchasers should insist all multinationals it deals with should close all offshore/taxhaven/secrecy operations by returning to a recognised whitelist of countries with minimum levels of tax.
    6) Bring in some maximum pay restraint in the NHS and maximum profit guidelines for outsourcers.

  47. Barry
    Posted December 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    John
    Reply delayed by the seasonal festivities.

    Having created industrial partnerships with government agencies and run a department following its outsourcing I may have some experiences of interest. The greatest savings could be made by reducing over manning and changes to bad inefficient processes….hardly assets.

    By far the biggest waste of assets was in the dreadful underutilisation and inappropriate use of accommodation….there were some staggering examples of this type of waste. Unfortunately, exercising controls on items such as walking sticks are likely to be cost counter-productive… Government Departments will spend a fortune on controlling nickel and dime stuff whilst ignoring the real cost items as above. Controlling walking sticks seemed to be just the sort of illusion of cost control the Government Departments offered up to avoid dealing with the difficult real cost saving issues. More detail can be supplied if you wish….

  48. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Very good point – the NHS does allow people to take Walking Sticks , walking frames, and other mobility aids on permanent loan.

    Some end up on eBay and in Car Boot sales but the NHS does ask for them to be returned. What we do not want is a Private Company coming in taking over the control of mobility equipment because primary businesses is profit whereas the NHS is trying to help people recover from operations through lending them mobility equipment. Charge a deposit for using the equipment which is returned when the equipment is returned. Like Fizzy aid bottles in the Seventies.

    I think just an Advertisement highlighting the fact that the NHS wants the stuff back would help solve the problem rather than Tar and Feathering people who forget to bring their crutches back.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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