More on roadworks idea

Just to prove my point,here are two more stories related to my last roadworks post. The first, is the previous government’s attempt. The second is just to prove what I said about the minister’s initial response.

1. 26 November, 2001 – A new approach to reducing the delays and disruptions caused by utility company road works was put forward in a consultation paper launched today.

Sarah Boyack, minister for transport and planning, launched ‘Reducing Disruption from Utilities’ Road Works – A Consultation Paper’ and invited comments on the proposals from local authorities, the utility companies and other interested parties.26 November, 2001.

2. Ministers reject call to give councils powers over utility companies

27 July, 2011 – Ministers have rejected proposals to give councils more powers to recoup the cost of repairs to roads damaged by work done on behalf of utility companies.
The Local Government Association had called for the government to make utility companies pay a bond or deposit in advance of roadworks to make it easier for councils to recoup the cost of damage – estimated at £70m in England and Wales last year – caused by inferior road repairs.
The LGA also called for councils to be given stronger powers to ensure roadworks are timed to cause the minimum disruption to motorists, and to guarantee roads are repaired properly once work has finished
But transport minister Norman Baker rejected the proposals. In a letter to the LGA he said that he “sympathised” with local authorities concerns about street works causing long-term damage, but said the proposal to take a bond from utility companies in order to recoup the cost of remediation was “inconsistent with the coalition government’s commitment to reduce regulatory costs on business.”
He said “a more pragmatic approach would be to reduce the extent of long-term damage costs through a greater focus on high-quality reinstatements.”
He added that giving councils more statutory powers would not be a “proportionate or workable solution that creates the right incentives for utility companies”.
“I consider that where a utility company’s highway reinstatement is substandard, local authorities currently do have adequate powers to require them to put things right,” he said.

Huhne , apparently no better than the rest of us

The ongoing farce that is Chris Huhne’s game of cat and mouse with the police over his alleged speeding offence, rather sums up the moral degradation issue our country is currently wrestling with.

Those of us who have been elected are regularly told that public service is an honour. We are also told that those of us fortunate enough to gain the public’s trust, through the electoral process, should be prepared to be held to a higher standard of behaviour in office. Chris Huhne’s personal integrity has clearly been called in to question and yet he continues to plead his innocence and desperately hang on to his position as a government minister.

Whilst such behaviour is not exactly the equivalent of rioting or looting, it could be argued that it is actually a form of high class anti-social behaviour. It could also be argued that it should receive the same zero tolerance approach now being demanded for ‘ordinary’ citizens. If it’s good enough for them, then it should be doubly so for those in public office and required to be held to a higher standard.

One could of course argue that Chris Huhne is innocent until proven guilty, but is that an acceptable approach for somebody in a high profile public office? Would not an honourable man, sensitive to the repetitional damage of such grubby goings on, consider his position? History is dotted with the names of honourable politicians who, when their personal integrity was called in to question, stepped aside until their name was cleared – I think David Laws is potentially the most recent example. In doing so, they should be seen as setting an example for other public servants to endeavour to follow.

Unfortunately, Chris Huhne appears to consider himself too important to take such an honourable course of action. Either that, or his moral compass has titled in the same way as all those rioters and looters who took to the streets 10 days ago. Whatever his reasons, it sets a pretty poor example to the rest of us ordinary folk.

Health reforms – quality measurement?

As a recent cancer suffer myself, I’ve been listening to the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley on Radio 4 this week, with great interest.  Unfortunately, I’m a hopeless patient and consistently fail to remember most of the details regarding my treatment, so I make no claim to any expertise on the subject of the NHS, apart from the fact that they appear to have helped me to live a bit longer!

The reason for my self confessed poorly informed comment today, is to do with Mr Lansley’s repeated use of the words ‘quality’ and ‘outcomes’.  This is in relation to the scrapping of the previous government’s target driven performance indicators and the new government’s belief that it should be all about the two words previous mentioned – quality and outcomes.

The problem I have with this approach, as somebody who has more than a passing interest in both, is what happens when they don’t hit these targets?  Also, what does it actually mean when the targets are not met?  The merit of measuring the numbers of patients seen within a particular time frame, was that the patient was seen by an expert within a certain deadline (unfortunate inclusion of the word dead there!) and could then hopefully start treatment post haste if required.  However, now that we are going to measure ‘quality’ and ‘outcomes’, it would seem that we are going from one end of the telescope to the other.   Whereas before the target was hit by getting you to see the right doctor as quickly as possible, that no longer matters.  Now you will have to survive long enough to get to the doctor, before they start to measure the quality and outcome of your treatment.

If you don’t measure things until the end of the process, as opposed to at the beginning, does that mean that if you drop off the perch before you actually get in to the new health care system, it isn’t actually a quality failure?  And, from their point of view at least, it might not even be a bad outcome!

If I have a quality failure at work, somebody gets their a**e kicked and the job gets redone.  If I have a quality failure in my health care, it may well kill me, or at least cause me to die sooner than I might of.  Which then of course will indeed give Mr Lansley a poor outcome to measure.

As I said, I’m no expert in these things, but measuring quality and outcomes in health care, in the same way you inspect widgets in a factory, doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction to me!  Trouble is, if I’m right (and I am very occasionally) I probably won’t be around to say I told you so!