Dec 2007 21

The OECD’s new Health at a Glance statistics paint a picture of the poor value for money we get from the NHS.  We spend almost exactly the OECD average amount on healthcare.  The OECD average is $2,759 PPP wheras the UK’s is $2,724 PPP.

However, we don’t get average amounts of a number of key healthcare inputs:

  • Acute beds per 1000 people, the OECD average is 3.9 but in the UK we only have 3.1.  This feeds into higher occupancy rates with 84 per cent of UK beds occupied against 75 per cent in the wider OECD.  These high occupancy rates contribute to high rates of hospital infection.
  • Practicing doctors per 1000 people, the OECD average is 3.0 but in the UK we only have 2.4.  This relatively low number of doctors means that they are stretched which will make seeing a specialist more difficult and could leave doctors overworked leading to a lower standard of care.  This feeds into lower doctor consultations per capita, the OECD average if 6.8 but in the UK we only get 5.1.

We do have slightly more nurses than the OECD average, 9.1 per 1000 people in the UK against 8.9 in the OECD but the difference is slight and could represent a greater tendency to have nurses perform tasks that would be performed by a doctor in another country.

Relatively low numbers of doctors and shortages of beds aren’t created by a lack of resources but by inefficiency.  They contribute to low healthcare standards.  Mortality rates within 30 days of a patient has being admitted to hospital following a heart attack are 11.8 in the UK against 10.2 in the wider OECD.  This rate is particularly crucial as heart disease is the biggest killer in most industrialised countries.

Dec 2007 20

From today’s Financial Times:

"German industrialists have urged Alistair Darling to rethink his “highly regrettable” tax changes for foreign residents. German Industry UK, which represents 250 companies in Britain, wants the chancellor to postpone the new tax measures and allow a period of thorough consultation…

"Some German businesses have been angered by the changes, announced in the pre-Budget report, because the tax break had been used as an incentive to attract Germans to the UK. Without it, the UK’s disadvantages, such as the climate and high cost of living, would weigh on managers’ considerations, Mr Atenstaedt said. It was “not only the super-rich who would be affected, but also hard-working industry people”. He estimated that 10,000-20,000 Germans were working in Britain."

It comes to something when tax rises by Alistair Darling are criticised by high-tax Europe!

Dec 2007 19

Aston20martin The BBC reports fury in Germany at EU proposals to restrict emissions from new cars:

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel has opposed European Union (EU) plans to cut pollution from new cars, saying it was "not economically favourable".

She said the move would burden Germany and its carmakers disproportionately."

It would be easy to get up on a high-horse about double standards and a German government unwilling to pay the price for action to meet international targets to cut emissions that they’ve been so active in pushing for.  That would be a mistake, though.

The German government should be defending the German national interest.  A democratic government should look out for the interests of its constituents.  In fact, we should be asking very serious questions about why our government cares so little about our own interests.

There are two key examples here.

The first example is the Emissions Trading Scheme where countries were allowed to allocate themselves emissions allowances.  This way of doing things obviously encouraged every country to set the highest allowance they could.  Every country then did just that except for the UK.  We set tough limits and Open Europe found (PDF) that we ended up paying £470 million in subsidy to other European states.  No emissions were cut at all.

The second example is the EU Landfill Directive which was obviously going to hit disproportionately at Britain as we recycle less than other European states.  Hated bin taxes are blamed on the European Union but our Government never seriously opposed the Directive that makes them necessary.

With our overly centralised politics public services monopolise the national debate and squeeze out foreign policy.  As few votes are at stake politicians attend to their own foreign policy agendas rather than the priorities of the public.  Being popular at international conferences makes them feel good but leaves us worse off.  It would be better if our politics was a little more German in this regard, if we learnt from L’exception Francaise.

Dec 2007 19

We’d all prefer to spend Christmas Eve at home with our families, but should all of the employees of Stoke-On-Trent City Council be treated to the day off as a thank you for all of their “hard work” at taxpayers’ expense?

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This ‘thank you’ gift on behalf of the taxpayers of Stoke is estimated to cost around £600,000 (almost as much as the recent refurbishments!) and has been granted by the council’s chief executive, Steve Robinson.

Those who are required to work on Christmas Eve are allowed to cash their day in later in 2008.

Predictably, the website of The Sentinel newspaper has been flooded with comments, mostly by disgusted taxpayers’ who see their council’s service as utterly substandard and feel that this reward is undeserved. Most complainants argue that a this day off shouldn’t be paid, and one peacemaker interjects that his friends who work for Stoke Council just ‘mess about’ during the week before Christmas so they may as well have the time off… Unbelievable.

If evidence is needed of Stoke’s persistent incompetence then a quick look at this very blog and their catalogue of recent disasters should be enough to prove that this is a council with no reason to treat itself, let alone at local residents’ expense.

Believe it or not one of the reasons for this high praise is that sick-days have dropped from an average of 12.86 days per year to 11.57 days. Still a staggering number of days, and undoubtedly insufferable for most private sector employers.

Stoke also won the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wigan Cup for 2007, and as they stroll lazily into 2008 they can let this minor victory eclipse the fact they have been rated the worse council in the country. Hopefully in 2008 their unfortunate electorate will be quick to remind them at the ballot box of their utter failure to reign in spending or significantly improve badly needed frontline services.      

Dec 2007 19

This clip, from Friction TV, has the first five minutes. The full video is here.

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