Wednesday, 20 April 2011

'Efficiency' is in the eye of the beholder

From the Guardian:
One of the big debates around the NHS is whether its budget should be allowed to grow in line with "healthcare inflation", a rate above the national standard that factors in people living longer and demanding more from the service. But Sir John Oldham, the Department of Health's national clinical lead on quality and productivity, has little time for the argument.
"It's a cop out, is my response," he says. "The challenge we face is one we can't face by doing things as we do now.
"When people give that challenge to me in a room of clinicians, I ask them each to write down, if they can, one or two things in the last week, in their personal day-to-day frontline experience, with a waste. And I have never walked out of a room without everybody being able to put something down."
This view is popular with government ministers, who are increasing England's NHS budget by normal inflation and trying to obtain £20bn of annual savings through the Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (Qipp) programme. It is less popular with many staff and unions, who believe that Qipp means cuts. 
Unfortunately it isn't these frontline clinicians who get to make the savings, its the managers and bureaucrats and the only way they know to save money is to sack people, they have no idea what is going on at the frontline. This is the absolutely best part of the article:
All of this would add up to a shift in care for long term conditions equivalent to that which started in mental health a quarter of a century ago, when patients went from institutions to care in the community. He says there are already examples of the openness to change required, such as Tyne, Wear and Esk Valleys mental health foundation trust, which has trained nearly 50 of its staff in use of the Kaizen method for continuous improvement. This involves often simple changes, but made promptly: for example, after staff noticed that nurses were clustering at a station rather than walking around their wards, the trust removed the station the same night. (my emphasis)
Hah, as a doctor I've already had my office taken away (an office for some six doctors or more) and given to one modern matron to twiddle her thumbs and drink her coffee in (I now have to use the nurses' station), so I'm well aware what a massive time wasting pain in the arse it is to have some moron take away your desk space which you need to complete the tedious reams of paperwork the NHS now requires. Nice efficiency saving geniuses, maybe you could ask why they were all clustering at the nurses' station, probably all filling out  the mandatory risk assessment and care plans that are now required for all patients.

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