Tag Archives: quality

Our Mayfly prime minister’s #Brexit speech should get her squashed like the bloodsucking bug she is

Theresa May’s speech on Tuesday will set out her approach to Brexit and be keenly watched by ministers across the EU. Some of them may bring popcorn [Image: Hannah McKay/PA].

Theresa May seems determined to make as many mistakes as she possibly can.

If she continues with this bid to be one of the shortest-lasting prime ministers in UK history, we’ll be calling her Theresa Mayfly. In fact, let’s start now.

The gist of today’s (January 16) Guardian story appears to be that she is threatening the EU with the possibility that the UK will take its trade to the US, under a new agreement.

What, like the now-defunct Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?

That project would have been an agreement between the US and the EU to cut the cost of trade – but the price would have been high.

The quality of goods would have been cut to the lowest common denominator – a considerable fall for products made in the EU, including the UK.

Working conditions would have been devalued, meaning workers in the UK would have lost many of their valued working rights. Mrs Mayfly is already working hard to strip you of those rights in any case.

And – crucially – the agreement would have given multinational companies the right to take national governments to court if any legislation they passed was likely to interfere with their profits. This would have sealed privatisation into the National Health Service, to name one obvious example.

TTIP was stopped because an international protest was launched against it, in which ordinary people came together across national borders to stand up for their rights, for the high quality of their goods, and for corporations to be put in their place.

It seems Mrs Mayfly is threatening to take those things away from UK citizens, despite the obvious and demonstrable public feeling.

If so, then the EU nations will laugh at her – and encourage her to continue.

Her threat will not harm them, you see. It will harm ordinary British people – like you.

It will give American corporations the opportunity to asset-strip the UK for anything worthwhile and leave a worthless husk in its place.

And it will give the EU nations opportunities they would not otherwise have had, if the UK did not enter into such a devastating deal.

If Theresa Mayfly makes this threat – and tries to follow up on it – she’ll have to go.

Theresa May will aim to strike a defiant tone in her upcoming Brexit speech on the risks to the rest of the EU of giving Britain a raw deal, echoing the combative approach taken by the chancellor.

In a speech by the prime minister on Tuesday that will be watched closely in EU capitals, Downing Street is keen to impress that there are potentially lucrative economic opportunities elsewhere, weeks before the UK is expected to trigger article 50.

There has been no decision about whether to publish a document setting out May’s approach to Brexit negotiations or let the prime minister’s speech stand as the plan, as she promised to MPs.

May is likely to emphasise Britain’s enthusiasm for pressing ahead with negotiating trade deals with countries including the US.

Source: Theresa May’s speech to warn EU of risk of giving UK a raw Brexit deal | Politics | The Guardian

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NHS spends £600m a year fixing botched ops by private healthcare – and Hunt praises the privateers

Jeremy Hunt: He thinks the NHS is bad because it doesn't have marble foyers.

Jeremy Hunt: He thinks the NHS is bad because it doesn’t have marble foyers.

Why on Earth should the best healthcare system in the world seek “inspiration” from the worst?

It should not. The only reason Jeremy Hunt is making that claim is, he’s so deeply involved with private health he probably needs a paid doctor to help screw him into his underwear in the morning.

His claim that there are diminishing resources (read: funds) for the NHS makes sense only in the context of his belief that health should be a profit-making industry.

But the instant you start clawing back money in search of that profit, you start harming service users. We have evidence of this from the past four years of Tory cuts and sell-offs.

Let’s look at this “revered” Mayo clinic, with its marble foyers. Marble foyers? Clearly this organisation is charging a fortune for its services and investing the money, not in clinical care, but in cosmetic augmentations.

There’s no room in the NHS for that kind of nonsense.

And Hunt wants us to believe that these fabled marble foyers have something to do with “quality and safety”?

He needs proper medical care to bring him to his senses.

The fact is that quality and safety were built into the NHS, right up until his forerunner, Andrew Lansley, passed a law to gut the service and hand its vital organs over to the privateers – and their marble foyers.

Quality and safety are part of the NHS right now – except in areas Mr Hunt has decided to starve of funds, because he wants people to think publicly-funded health provision isn’t as good as that provided by an expensive firm of profit-making money-grubbers with marble foyers.

Oh, and it may interest you to know that Mr Hunt used his King’s Fund speech to complain about the cost of cleaning up patients who are left with infections or complications after operations – around £100,000.

But who, exactly, hands over 6,000 patients per year to the NHS for this expensive service (that’s a cost of £600 million)?

That’s right – firms of profit-making money-grubbers. So much for quality and safety.

I don’t know if they all have marble foyers, but they certainly do all have contracts provided by Mr Jeremy Hunt.

The NHS should look to the USA for inspiration in its battle to meet demand with diminishing resources, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

Speaking at the King’s Fund’s annual conference on Wednesday, he said the Government had not been given enough credit for its investment in the health service during difficult economic times, and challenged managers and staff to make savings by ‘thinking about quality and safety not as an optional extra’.

Mr Hunt said the NHS could learn these lessons from institutions such as the revered Mayo Clinic, which runs 20 hospitals in the USA.

He asked: ‘What does this clinic that Arab kings visit with its amazing marble foyers have that is at all relevant to us? One of the reasons it has marble foyers is they have created so much value by making quality their business strategy.

‘The way we unlock the resources we really need because of the pressures on the NHS is by thinking about quality and safety not as an optional extra but as an intrinsic business strategy.’

Source: BMA – Learn from US clinics and their ‘marble foyers’, says health secretary

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Happier workers really do make more profit, report shows

More respect, please: If company bosses stop trying to wring every last ounce of profit out of workers while paying them a pittance, and start treating them well instead, they'll be surprised at how well their firm starts to perform, according to a new report.

More respect, please: If company bosses stop trying to wring every last ounce of profit out of workers while paying them a pittance, and start treating them well instead, they’ll be surprised at how well their firm starts to perform, according to a new report.

The nice folk at NIESR have produced a new report that supports something this blog has been saying for many years – that businesses make more profit if they take better care of their workforce.

The report is headed Happier workers, higher profits? and states: “We found those workplaces with rising employee job satisfaction also experienced improvements in workplace performance, while deteriorating employee job satisfaction is detrimental to workplace performance.

“Employee job satisfaction was found to be positively associated with workplace financial performance, labour productivity, the quality of output and service and an additive scale combining all three aspects of performance.

“Workplaces experiencing an improvement in non-pecuniary job satisfaction… also experience an improvement in performance.

“By contrast, there was no robust association between job-related affect (measured in terms of the amount of time feeling tense, depressed, worried, gloomy, uneasy and miserable) and workplace performance, nor pay satisfaction and workplace performance.”

The conclusion is that “these findings are consistent with the proposition that employers who are able to raise employees’ job satisfaction may see improvements in workplace profitability (financial performance), labour productivity and the quality of output or service [bolding mine, for reasons that will become apparent].

“Although we cannot state definitively that the link between increasing job satisfaction and improved workplace performance is causal, the findings are robust to tests for reverse causation and persist within workplaces over time, so that we can discount the possibility that the results are driven by fixed unobservable differences between workplaces.

“There is therefore a prima facie case for employers to consider investing in the wellbeing of their employees on the basis of the likely performance benefits.”

This ties in very closely with Vox Political‘s many comments on the Living Wage. The relationship is obvious: Pay somebody enough that they don’t need to ask for State benefits and their sense of self-worth increases hugely.

Here’s what this blog said on the subject back in April last year: “If a person receives enough, in return for their work, to pay their way in the world without having to take state benefits, several things happen.

“They feel valued in their position, and try harder. The quality of their work improves, along with that of the other workers in the company who also receive the living wage, and as a result, the employer is likely to benefit from improved orders. The company flourishes [increased productivity] and is able to take on more employees.

“As a result of this, the firm and its employees are able to pay more taxes and National Insurance contributions – not as a result of an increase imposed by an oppressive government, but because more people are employed there [and profits are higher]. The government therefore has more cash to fund public services; it has less need to borrow money and will not have to pay as much in social security benefits – in-work benefits will be unnecessary because working people will be receiving enough to put them above the threshold for that support, and fewer people will be claiming out-of-work benefits.

“The government can then pay off its debts and deficit more quickly, after which it can cut tax rates. This means everyone will have more money in their pockets – including employers, who can plough the extra cash back into the firm with infrastructure improvements and more employment.

“You see how this works?

“Contrast this with what happens when you employ somebody on the minimum wage, or abolish it.

“People on the absolute minimum do not feel valued. They consider their employers to be taking more than their fair share of the profits generated by the company where they all work together. They feel undervalued – and demeaned by the fact that they have to claim state benefits in order to survive. Their health may be put at risk, because they may find themselves having to work ridiculously long hours, just to make ends meet. Their work starts to suffer, and they may end up unemployed, either for health reasons or because the company is suffering (as a result of workers turning in substandard work).

“The company makes cutbacks. Its bosses don’t want to take a pay cut so they cut corners elsewhere. The workforce diminishes and the quality of the product suffers. In time, the firm’s contribution to the national economy dwindles – if it doesn’t go to the wall altogether. Its tax and National Insurance contribution plummets.

“The government finds itself paying in-work benefits for increasing numbers of people, and unemployment figures skyrocket. Employers and workers do not provide enough money in taxes and National Insurance to pay the bill for public services, so these are cut back and borrowing increases. The nation goes into a debt spiral.

“That is the current situation.

“Which of the above would you rather have?”

That remains the current situation, no matter what George Osborne may be saying today. The government would not be considering slashing the amount paid to ESA claimants if it didn’t consider the number of people claiming the benefit to be too high. We all know the number of people claiming in-work benefits has rocketed and that Osborne is facing a huge shortfall between the amount of tax he expected to receive this year and the actual amount. What is it – £5 billion? That’s not small change!

There have been huge arguments with right-wingers who have made spurious claims that employers can’t afford to pay more than the minimum wage – or that there is no incentive to do so.

This research provides an incentive to do so.

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What would YOU ask David Cameron in Public Prime Minister’s Questions?

Mile-wide: Mr Miliband explained his idea to bridge the gulf between the public and the Prime Minister to Andrew Marr.

Mile-wide: Mr Miliband explained his idea to bridge the gulf between the public and the Prime Minister to Andrew Marr.

Ed Miliband engaged in a particularly compelling piece of kite-flying today (July 27) – he put out the idea that the public should have their own version of Prime Minister’s Questions.

Speaking to Andrew Marr, he said such an event would “bridge the ‘mile-wide’ gulf between what people want and what they get from Prime Minister’s Questions”, which has been vilified in recent years for uncivilised displays of tribal hostility between political parties and their leaders (David Cameron being the worst offender) and nicknamed ‘Wednesday Shouty Time’.

“I think what we need is a public question time where regularly the prime minister submits himself or herself to questioning from members of the public in the Palace of Westminster on Wednesdays,” said Mr Miliband.

“At the moment there are a few inches of glass that separates the public in the gallery from the House of Commons but there is a gulf a mile wide between the kind of politics people want and what Prime Minister’s Questions offers.”

What would you ask David Cameron?

Would you demand a straight answer to the question that has dogged the Department for Work and Pensions for almost three years, now – “How many people are your ‘welfare reform’ policies responsible for killing?”

Would you ask him why his government, which came into office claiming it would be the most “transparent” administration ever, has progressively denied more and more important information to the public?

Would you ask him whether he thinks it is right for a Prime Minister to knowingly attempt to mislead the public, as he himself has done repeatedly over the privatisation of the National Health Service, the benefit cap, the bedroom tax, food banks, fracking…? The list is as long as you want to make it.

What about his policies on austerity? Would you ask him why his government of millionaires insists on inflicting deprivation on the poor when the only economic policy that has worked involved investment in the system, rather than taking money away?

His government’s part-privatisation of the Royal Mail was a total cack-handed disaster that has cost the nation £1 billion and put our mail in the hands of hedge funds. Would you ask him why he is so doggedly determined to stick to privatisation policies that push up prices and diminish quality of service. Isn’t it time some of these private companies were re-nationalised – the energy firms being prime examples?

Would you want to know why his government has passed so many laws to restrict our freedoms – of speech, of association, of access to justice – and why it intends to pass more, ending the government’s acknowledgement that we have internationally-agreed human rights and restricting us to a ‘Bill of Rights’ dictated by his government, and tying us to restrictive lowest-common-denominator employment conditions laid down according to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a grubby little deal that the EU and USA were trying to sign in secret until the whistle was blown on it?

Would you ask him something else?

Or do you think this is a bad idea?

What do you think?

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Labour’s rail plan – what we need, rather than what we want?

De-railed: After years of reliance on taxpayers' money, it seems the ride may soon by over for some of the UK's rail privateers [Image: PA].

De-railed: After years of reliance on taxpayers’ money, it seems the ride may soon by over for some of the UK’s rail privateers [Image: PA].

The Labour Party seems to have a real problem with offering the public what the public has demanded.

Faced with demand for the railways to be renationalised, they seem set to announce a plan in which private firms compete with a public service for franchises.

The promise of privatisation had been that the new franchise-holders would keep prices down, and any investment should be made by the companies concerned.

In fact, fares and taxpayer investment have rocketed since the railways were privatised by the last full Conservative government in the early 1990s.

It seems that Labour’s plan, which may be announced next week (the party is being very cagey about it), will mean franchises are awarded based on “a pragmatic choice between the state and private sector based on price, reliability and quality of service” (according to a report in The Guardian).

This, we are told, “will provide a solution that allays commuter frustration, provides a fair deal for the taxpayer and does not amount to a return to British Rail”.

Such a decision will not only anger rail unions, Labour MPs who have been calling for renationalisation, and 70 per cent of the British public, but also the rail industry’s private operators, who say current bids for franchises must not be upset by allowing the state to join the process belatedly.

It has also been claimed that an extra risk would be imported onto the public sector balance sheet if a state-owned company won a franchise.

But this is narrow-minded thinking; the state currently spends much more on the railways than it did before they were privatised – we already have a large risk on the public balance sheet.

If these private firms had done their jobs properly, then the taxpayer would not be shouldering so many of their costs and – perhaps – the Labour Party would not be considering even the partial renationalisation that is on the table at the moment.

None of the UK’s current rail operators have kept their promises and after 20 years, it is far too late for them to bleat about the situation they have created.

It should also be noted that the public sector has been running the East Coast Main Line extremely successfully since the franchise run by National Express failed, making expansion of this management model highly attractive to Labour strategists who need to find ways of trimming the burden on the public purse.

As a group of prospective Labour MPs in marginal constituencies wrote in a letter to The Observer, it would mean “hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares”.

If so, it seems that this halfway-house plan may provide exactly what we need, even if it isn’t what anybody wants.

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Why is Tristram Hunt in the Labour Party?

'U' for effort: Why should parents vote 'Labour' if Tristram Hunt won't repair the disastrous harm that Michael Gove has been inflicting on our school system - and our children's future?

‘U’ for effort: Why should parents vote ‘Labour’ if Tristram Hunt won’t repair the disastrous harm that Michael Gove has been inflicting on our school system – and our children’s future?

According to shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, Labour will not repeal Michael Gove’s major – useless – changes to the British school system if it wins the next election. In that case: Why vote Labour?

Gove has proved to be the stupidest education secretary of recent history. His divisive ‘Free Schools’ vanity project is a disaster that has increased costs for children who must get their education miles away when there is a school next door to them, while standards of teaching have plummetted at the new establishments – with unqualified teachers and calamitous Ofsted inspection reports.

Not only has he created appalling imbalances in the school system, but Gove has also de-stabilised his own department, bringing in unqualified ‘advisors’ to overrule seasoned civil servants on major decisions. The result has been wide-scale demoralisation, with many experts leaving the profession, their experience lost forever.

The agenda, as far as it is possible to see one, seems to be to maim the state education system so badly that it will be unable to compete with privately-run schools on any level, meaning the sons and daughters of the rich will be able to beat state school pupils to the choicest jobs.

Now, Tristram Hunt – whose political beliefs appear to be so amorphous that he could belong to any one of the major political parties – says he won’t sort out any of the problems Gove has been creating. He says that would be “tinkering”.

Many of Gove’s reforms “built on” Labour ideas, he told the BBC.

Those were bad ideas, Tristram. For a man who is supposed to be well-educated, you don’t seem to notice much, do you?

We currently have a system stuffed with so many kinds of school it must be impossible for parents to work out what’s best for their pupils, even if they have a decent choice available to them.

In practice, it seems, there is little difference between them as none seem capable of providing the education that people need. As a writer, I have seen the quality of written English nosedive over the past 30 years. Tristram Hunt will do nothing to change that. So why vote Labour?

Instead of having Free Schools, academies, grammar schools or whatever silly name people want to give them, why can’t we just have schools?

Hunt does put forward some useful ideas in his BBC interview but – having seen what he thinks of the Gove policies – it is hard to have faith that he can carry them out adequately.

He says the Free Schools policy has been wasteful in adding new places where there is already a surplus – and any new schools should be built where there is a shortage.

Also, Labour would put resources into technical and vocational education in a change from previous policy – which attempted to funnel half of school leavers into university, whether they deserved the extra education or not.

These are practical ideas, but if the system is not based on solid principles, they will not make any difference at all.

Mr Hunt is himself an educated man and must be made to see that his policies are ridiculous. He should receive a ‘U’ for effort and be made to take his exams again.

And, while Ed Miliband is putting people like this on his front bench, the question remains: Why vote Labour?

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Stalled – the plan to share NHS patients’ confidential information with big business

Freudian slip: The BBC's article on the care.data delay was accompanied by this picture of a hand drawing on a diagram of a pair of breasts. Is this a tacit implication that the Department of Health has boobed? (Sorry, ladies) [Image: BBC]

Freudian slip: The BBC’s article on the care.data delay was accompanied by this picture of a hand drawing on a diagram of a pair of breasts. Is this a tacit implication that the Department of Health has boobed? (Sorry, ladies) [Image: BBC]

A plan to sell the confidential medical information of every NHS patient in England has been put on hold after it caused a public outcry.

The care.data system, also called variously the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) or the Health and Social Care Information Centre, was dreamed up as a money-spinning device by Jeremy Hunt’s Department of Health.

The aim is that, if you are an NHS patient in England, your GP will be forced to provide your confidential records, showing every medical condition you have ever had and providing intimate details of your current state of health, to a huge national database.

From there, your information may be sold on to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies for “research”. A new proposal backed by NHS England (a body set up largely to support the increasing privatisation of the NHS, if my information is correct) would give non-NHS bodies including private companies the right to ask for access to the data.

The government has said the information would be “pseudonymised”, in an attempt to reassure you that you cannot be identified from the information to be provided to outside organisations. This is not true, and in fact it will be entirely possible to trace your medical information back to you.

The government claims the information will help experts assess diseases, examine the effects of new drugs and identify infection outbreaks, while also monitoring the performance of the NHS.

In fact, it seems far more likely that this is a widespread invasion of privacy, with the information likely to be used (for example) to sell you health insurance that you should not need.

We are told that NHS England organised a mass mailing to every household in England, explaining its version of what the planned system will do – but a BBC poll of 860 people last week found that fewer than one-third of them could recall receiving it.

Concern that people are likely to end up allowing their information to go into commercial hands without ever knowing about it has led to the scheme being halted – for the time being.

NHS England has accepted that its communications campaign must be “improved”, although we do not yet know how. A propaganda campaign on TV and radio seems likely.

Every NHS patient in England has the right to opt out of the data sharing scheme, and many have already chosen to do so. You can do it right now, using a form designed by the medConfidential website.

While NHS England and the Department of Health will continue trying to justify this scheme, there is no justification for selling your private information to commercial organisations.

It is to be hoped that this six-month pause will end with the abandonment of the scheme.

If the organisations that want the information genuinely intend to use it for humanitarian concerns, it would be fully anonymised and they would not be buying it.

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Are you happy for big business to have your confidential medical records?

n4s_nhs1

Do you live in England? Are you an NHS patient? Have you realised that your Conservative-led Coalition government is selling your medical records to private healthcare and pharmaceutical companies? Do you know that these ‘anonymised’ records are in fact nothing of the sort, and anyone buying your details will be able to identify you?

Do you want to do something about it? It isn’t too late.

Vox Political warned last September that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is planning to sell records to “approved” private companies and also universities – that’s sell, mark you, to make money for the government.

The system was called the General Patient Extraction Service (GPES) – although exactly who it serves is entirely up for debate. It seems to have metamorphosed into the Health and Social Care Information Centre by now, but the purpose remains the same. You may also see it described as the care.data scheme.

Hunt wants us to believe that the information will be valuable for medical research and screening for common diseases.

In fact, the information could be used by private health companies as evidence of failures by the National Health Service, and could help those companies undercut NHS bids to continue running those services – this would accelerate the privatisation that nobody wanted.

This week, The Independent reminded us all that the system that will sell off your information will go live later this year.

The article warned: “Companies like Bupa or Virgin that already hold data on UK patients may be able to use the new anonymous data available from the centre to precisely identify where it has come from, according to campaigners.

Phil Booth, co-ordinator at patient pressure group medConfidential, said: “The scheme is deliberately designed so that ‘pseudonymised’ data – information that can be re-identified by anyone who already holds information about you – can be passed on to ‘customers’ of the information centre, with no independent scrutiny and without even notifying patients. It’s a disaster just waiting to happen.”

The information for sale to profit-making firms will contain NHS numbers, date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender.

Patients can opt out of the system by contacting their family doctor, but medConfidential has designed a form to make it easier.

On its ‘How to opt out’ page, the organisation writes: “Under changes to legislation, your GP can now be required to upload personal and identifiable information from the medical record of every patient in England to central servers at the Health and Social Care Information Centre. Once this information leaves your GP practice, your doctor will no longer be in control of what data is passed on or to whom.

“This information will include diagnoses, investigations, treatments and referrals as well as other things you may have shared with your doctor including your weight, alcohol consumption, smoking and family history. Each piece of information will be identifiable as it will be uploaded with your NHS number, date of birth, post code, gender and ethnicity.

“NHS England – the body now in charge of commissioning primary care services across England – will manage and use the information extracted by the Health and Social Care Information Centre for a range of purposes, none of which are to do with your direct medical care. Though the official leaflets talk a great deal about research, these ‘secondary uses’ for which your data may be used include patient-level tracking and monitoring, audit, business planning and contract management.

“In September 2013, NHS England applied to pass on your information in a form it admits “could be considered identifiable if published” to a whole range of organisations that include – but are not limited to – research bodies, universities, think tanks, “information intermediaries”, charities and private companies.

“Though you may be told that any data passed on will be ‘anonymised’, no guarantees can be given as to future re-identification – indeed information is to be treated so that it can be linked to other data at patient level – and NHS England has already been given legal exemptions to pass identifiable data across a range of regional processing centres, local area teams and commissioning bodies that came into force on April 1st 2013. The Health and Social Care Information Centre already provides access to patient data, some in identifiable form, to a range of ‘customers’ outside the NHS, including private companies.”

The opt-out form is downloadable from the medConfidential web page, along with a form letter in various formats, allowing patients to opt out themselves, their children and any adults for whom they are responsible.

This is a gross abuse of patient confidentiality for the purpose of commercial gain.

Don’t let it happen to you.

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Goodbye to Britain’s National Health Service, Hello Tory Dystopia

140113THAP!

Here’s an article from US website Global Comment on what America clearly understood to be the privatisation of the National Health Service in England. It was published in March 2012, about a month after the Health and Social Care Act was passed – and seems much more perceptive in its evaluation than – for example – the BBC!

The article states: “The level of health care privatization being implemented by the British government via the Health and Social Care Bill (and experts agree it amounts to privatization and will lead to more, even as ministers known to love the private sector deny it) is seen by many as essentially the end of the National Health Service (NHS). The editor of the respected medical journal The Lancet has described the impact of this “coming disaster” very bluntly: ‘People will die thanks to the government’s decision to focus on competition rather than quality in healthcare.'”

It continues: “A hatchet is being taken to the NHS without a mandate, which explains the lack of transparency and authoritarianism of the process. The government doesn’t want a risk assessment for their “reforms” published, and meanwhile protests that have been held with the aim of quite literally conserving a beloved British institution, a pillar of the welfare state, have been policed as if they were radical demonstrations aiming to smash the state.

“The Conservatives very explicitly lied about their intentions: a famous and frequently parodied campaign poster featured Tory leader and now Prime Minister David Cameron promising that he wouldn’t cut the NHS.”

Moving on to other policies, it states: “In place of free healthcare for UK citizens, the government is providing free labor for corporations: “Jobseekers have been made to do compulsory unpaid work for up to four weeks after refusing to take part in the voluntary work experience scheme,” reports The Guardian.

“And there are all kinds of other nasty Tory plans in motion to make Britain a more grim, awful place. They plan to kick out immigrants from outside the European Union who earn less than £35,000, which is to say almost half the country’s nurses. Cameron’s cuts to disability benefits are so severe as to have even prompted the departure of long-term members of his party – appalled by the “endless attacks on disabled people and their right to independence and full equality” – and fierce opposition from columnists for The Daily Mail, usually a bastion of right-wing meanness.

“How did things get so bad, so fast?”

Well worth reading.

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No justice for legal aid as Grayling ignores thousands of consultation responses

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it's also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as 'justice' at all?

Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it’s also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as ‘justice’ at all?

A story has appeared on the BBC News website, stating that elite barristers have joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to cut legal aid for criminal cases by almost a quarter.

It states that the Treasury Counsel, a group appointed by the Attorney General to prosecute the most serious crimes, has followed the lead of the Bar Council and the Law Society in saying the plan to cut £220 million from the annual £1 billion legal aid budget is unsustainable.

This is accurate, but fails to address the most damning indictment against Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice in this matter.

According to the Treasury Counsel’s written response: “HM Government has indicated that it rejects or can ignore much of the content of the thousands of Consultation Responses, …particularly as to the future effect on the supply and quality of criminal advocacy services from the proposed changes to legal aid funding.”

It continues: “Criminal legal aid remuneration is identified as an appropriate target for ‘reduction’: this is based on a ‘belief’. The belief is that ‘further efficiency and cost savings in criminal legal aid remuneration” are both possible and sustainable’.”

This means that Chris Grayling and his cronies have decided to ignore evidence-based opposition to their plans because of an unfounded, unquantifiable “belief” that cutting funding will not affect the quality of the legal advice available in criminal cases.

If this matter were itself a court case, it could be settled with a simple question: When has this ever been proved in the past?

Can you think of any time when cutting budgets has not harmed a service – or actually improved it? Of course not.

The response – written by people who are appointed by the Coalition Government’s own Attorney General, let’s not forget, and who may therefore be taken as broadly sympathetic to its aims, continues: “The Minister of State said, ‘This is a comprehensive package of reform, based on extensive consultation. I believe it  offers value for the taxpayer, stability for the professions, and access to justice for all’… yet the Impact Assessment attached to the new Paper simply makes no attempt to evaluate or monetise the behavioural changes that will most certainly result from its proposals.

The entirely obvious and predictable outcomes are lost quality and reduced supply. These are airbrushed in the Impact Assessment by repeated “steady state” assumptions. The behavioural changes are not then, uncertain. Neither will any steady state remain. They are, though, unpalatable; they will not improve the public interest.

“In a telling acknowledgment of this, the Ministry in its new consultation paper wholly abdicates its responsibility for this assessment by first making neutral assumptions and then asking the consultees what the impact will be. The Minister of State has lifted his telescope to his bad eye.

The assessment of the Treasury Counsel is that cumulative changes since 1997, and a real terms cut of nearly half since 2007, mean Grayling’s proposals “will do significant harm to the operation of the criminal justice system… In particular, they will have both an adverse and disproportionate effect on the supply of such services by the acknowledged experts – the criminal Bar”.

Not only that, but the response says the cuts could be achieved in less harmful ways, such as “the proper working through of existing changes. Or, for example, in the proper letting and administration of government contracts for CJS services; court interpreters, custodians and other activities are telling examples of incompetent administration and wasting money – and these on services ancillary to the main process, that are provided by trading companies rather than professionally regulated people.”

In other words, allowing the market into the Criminal Justice Service (that’s the ‘CJS’ in the quotation) has lowered its quality and increased its cost.

The bottom line: “We consider that the proposed reductions, in whichever iteration, are unnecessary, have an effect much larger than claimed and will produce unsustainable results.” In terms of quality of service, it seems that it is the government’s proposals that are unaffordable.

The Attorney General himself, Dominic Grieve, indicated his own lack of enthusiasm for the proposals in a letter to the Bar Council in June. This accepted that opposition to the proposals cannot be explained away by self-interest, acknowledging that there is serious and principled opposition to the proposals which cannot be attributed to mere selfishness.

“Many… took the view that these proposals would cause the edifice to collapse,” he wrote, adding that he would continue to draw Grayling’s attention to the concerns that had been expressed to him.

It seems, considering the latest developments, that the Ministry of Justice not only has a bad eye but also a deaf ear.

What a shame its members are not speechless as well. For the sake of balance, here’s what a Ministry spokesperson had to say: “At around £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after our changes would still have one of the most generous. We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system and that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.

“We have engaged constructively and consistently with lawyers – including revising our proposals in response to their comments – and to allege we have not is re-writing history.”

Is it constructive for a government department to ignore evidence that it has specifically requested?

Is it consistent to run a consultation process, and then throw away the results because they don’t agree with ministers’ “belief”?

Of course not.

Grayling’s plans are ideologically-based and entirely unsupportable and should be laughed out of court.