Sunday, March 18, 2007

What a waste of money?

Whilst we are on the subject of numbers, The Observer reports,

A damning report by the highly respected health think-tank, the King's Fund, reveals that productivity in the health service has actually declined, despite the huge injection of cash. …

The author of the King's Fund study, economist John Appleby, said the figures showed why hopes had been dashed that tens of billions of extra NHS spending would mean major improvements in frontline care. … productivity levels among GPs, consultants and nurses have nowhere near matched the scale of the increase in the NHS's funding in England.

There is a lot that jars in this report. It assumes all improvements in staff conditions and numbers were a waste, diverting money from patient care. What struck me most were the comments about productivity. Surely if we want to improve the quality of service we need to reduce productivity. Smaller class sizes reduce the productivity of teachers; if GPs see fewer patients in the same time, they are giving each patient more attention; lower case loads help social workers do a better job and may save lives. Reducing productivity can actually mean a far better experience for those that use services. What on earth is the benefit of stressed-out front-line staff dealing with more and more people, with insufficient time to do the job properly? Let those of us in the public sector fight for lower productivity to make more jobs and to serve the public better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter
You are quite right in being skeptical about the King's Foundation Report. Public sector productivity can be notoriously difficult to measure because of the severe methodological problems in quantifying the quality of the 'product'as opposed to calculating the throughput of bodies divided by the number of staff. Indeed, stalinist productivity targets can have a perverse effect. I believe there was a recent case where a drive to cut in-patient times led to patients being discharged too early and then re-presenting themselves with severe complications that would have been avoided if adequate treatment/recuperation had been carried out in the first place. Last year, there was a story in the Times about an 'efficiency drive' in optical services that led to more people going blind.

Cheers Rod ('Talking Politics'Beverley Rd Centre)