Headlines: August 31st, 1999

TREASURY EFFICIENCY DRIVE GETS INTO GEAR

The Treasury plans to reduce annual expenditure across the public services by 8 billion pounds by 2001/02 through improved productivity and efficiency. The spearhead of the drive is the Public Services Productivity Panel, drawn from leading private sector and consultant managers under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The Panel’s work programme will focus on central departments colleges, police services, housing departments, and hospitals. The themes to be addressed include motivation and incentives, variations in performance and customer service. Link http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk

NHS DIRECT MAKES HEALTHIER HOLIDAYS

NHS Direct, the 24 hour free health hotline, is proving popular in seaside towns. This is the first year the service has been available in so many traditional seaside towns. In the past, when people were on holiday and needing health advice and treatment, they often faced a difficult search for local health services, local GPs or health clinics. Sometimes they resorted to the Accident and Emergency Department. A growing number are now phoning 0845 46 47 for professional advice about a wide range of illnesses from insect bites and upset stomachs to broken limbs and emergency medication.

PUBLIC SPENDING HITS A RECORD LOW

An analysis by Tony Travers of the LSE and published in the Guardian shows that public spending is at its lowest level for 40 years. Expressed as a proportion of national income public spending is 39.4%. The figure for the Major Government of 1990/97 was 43%. The analysis shows that the extra 40b pounds for priority areas will result in a 2.9% increase for education and a 3.9% increase for health.

WORKING IN 2015

The Future Unit of the DTI, an internal think tank and agent of cultural change, has published a report on “Work in the Knowledge-Driven Economy” which takes a look at what work might be like in 15 years’ time. It warns of the need to prepare for change and to acquire new skills in the work-place of the future. It describes two possible scenarios of the world in 2015 to help understand how the future of work might change. Link http://www.dti.gov.uk\future-unit

GOING FOR BEACON STATUS

Half of the councils in the UK want to be centres of excellence in local government. 211 have applied for Beacon status which will secure funding and allow them to share good practice. The applications are spread across seven areas of council business ranging from schools to crime prevention. . The final selection of Beacon councils will be made by Ministers in November. Link http://www.detr.gov.uk.

ILL HEALTH RETIREMENT REVIEW

Concern that the annual cost of new medical retirements in public service has now risen to £1 billion has prompted a review by the Treasury. The Review Group includes representatives from a range of Departments, and from TUC, CBI, The Association of Local Authority Medical Advisers, and the Institute of Personnel Development.. The Group will examine the reasons for wide differences between organisations performing similar tasks, e.g. police forces. It will also look at the causes of ill-health retirements, including stress, and how to manage them better.

PAYING TAX BY DEBIT CARD 7 DAYS A WEEK

The Inland Revenue is continuing to modernise its services by allowing self assessment taxpayers to pay tax by debit card over the telephone. Calls will be charged at the local rate. The lines will be open 7 days a week, between 8am and 10pm.

PROFESSIONALS TO COUNTER NHS FRAUD

Over 500 NHS staff are to be professionally trained in the basic skills of countering fraud, including prompt detection, appropriate legal action when offences are identified and deterrence. The specialist training courses will be at both foundation and advanced levels and can lead to academic qualifications at BSc and MSc degree levels. They are being recognised and accredited by the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth. The NHS will be the first healthcare system in the world to deploy specially trained and professionally qualified counter-fraud experts to ensure that taxpayers’ money gets spent on patient care, not illegally diverted through fraud.
Information provided by Horn Ltd, suppliers of specialist police information www.Horn.ltd.uk

GETTING A GOOD DEAL FROM A PFI PROJECT

The National Audit Office in its latest report sets out an analytical framework to assist those involved in PFI deals. Its aim is to help everyone concerned in a deal to think through the key issues. The report takes the form of a good practice guide and it highlights approaches that have been successful as well as suggesting ways to combat the pitfalls and problems experienced in some of the early projects. It focuses on four pillars which contribute to the overarching aim of getting a good deal in a PFI project: setting clear objectives, applying the proper procurement processes, selecting the best available deal and ensuring that the deal makes sense. Link http://www.open.gov.uk/nao/pn.htm

CHILD SUPPORT AGENCY OPEN ITS DOORS

In response to criticism about complaints handling procedures in an independent report, the Child Support Agency has launched a ‘face to face’ initiative. An additional 600 staff will be available throughout the country to undertake face-to-face interviews. The aim of the initiative is to help parents overcome problems in completing maintenance assessments and understand the complexity of the current system. Other measures to improve the performance of the Agency include increased funding of 28m pounds and the appointment of Deloitte Consulting to work in partnership with the CSA to improve compliance rates. Link http://www.dss.gov.uk