Friday, July 13, 2007

The Land Of Golden Goodbyes


So long suckers

The NHS financial crisis is costing us a fortune. Brown's seven years of plenty may have come to an abrupt halt, but in an organisation legendary for squandering public money, that translates into ever more, and ever crasser wastefulness.

This morning we learn of yet another huge golden goodbye for a departing NHS manager:

"David Johnson, the former head of a regional strategic health authority, was one of about 70 staff who left the organisation when it was abolished as part of a restructuring programme. The 50-year-old received a package worth £899,810 including salary and pension arrangements."

Described as "a lottery win rather than a payout", Mr Johnson's package is part of the estimated £320m splashed out by the NHS in redundancy payments during the current crisis.

This is mismanagement on a huge scale. The NHS is not some bombed out car maker, but an operation that has benefited from massive growth in revenue over recent years- a doubling since Brown turned on the taps in 2000. How on earth can it now find itself having to declare thousands of redundancies?

Of course, we know the answer: all that money was blown with very little - if any - thought to the future. New staff were taken on in droves and in haste. There was no effective manpower planning, still less any vision of where the whole bloated edifice might be heading or need to change.

Another measure of the same thing is the continuing jobs crisis for newly qualified health professionals. We've spent billions on training them, but post all those mega pay rises, the NHS suddenly discovers it can't afford to take them on.

Last year, we blogged the shortage of posts for thousands of newly qualified nurses, estimating it had cost us £0.5bn in wasted training (see here). Last year too, the BMA estimated we'd wasted £1.4bn on training doctors (at £250 grand each) who couldn't find UK posts.

Today we hear about the same problem with physiotherapists. They cost us £30 grand to train, and it looks like 1500 of them will not get NHS jobs this year. The Blob just trained far more than it was going to employ. Another £45m tossed on the fire.

Truly madly deeply spectacularly irredeemably buttockclenchingly hopeless management.

And of course, it isn't just the NHS.

Yesterday we blogged the case of the 180 DfES civil servants who had absolutely nothing to do but were left in post anyway. Management apparently just ignored the problem.

And earlier this week we got an update on the disastrous Rural Payments Agency. We've blogged that fiasco many times of course, including the Public Accounts Committee meeting where ex-CEO Johnston McNeill spilled the beans on just how badly the whole thing was managed, all the way up to the spineless power-without-responsibility performance of Defra ministers (see here).

Now McNeill has been back before the PAC to say he's considering legal action against the government for unfair dismissal. That's because they sacked him without any prior warning or even any indication they thought his performance was unacceptable. We've already paid him £250,000, including £60 grand for unfair dismissal, but now he says:

"I've had no disciplinary hearing, I've had no correspondence about what exactly it is I have done wrong, I've had no opportunity to appeal."

And as anyone who has ever sacked anyone for poor performance knows, you can't just do it. There are procedures you have to go through, written warnings you have to give, difficult conversations you must have and document. All to meet employment protection legislation laid down by - yes, you guessed it - the government.

The reality is, as we've said many times, you wouldn't trust the average government department to run a whelk stall. Hopeless at strategy, hopeless at planning, and hopeless at execution. That's pretty well a clean sweep.
There's just one mystery.
Why do we trust them to spend 43% of our incomes?

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