Errr…Tesco. Yes. That must be it. Do I get a biscuit?

So we blogged about the abject failure of privatisers Circle and Hinchingbrooke hospital, the one where they boasted of using tills like the ones in Argos:

And whilst waiting in A&E, an unusually high number of patients (double the national average) left before being seen, fed up of waiting – and presumably unimpressed by the waiting-management computer system Circle had boasted was modelled on the Argos tills. (Circle’s senior management team had been hired from Argos, Avon, Faberge, Tesco and fashion-website Asos, bragged Ali Parsa in an article entitled “Government should not be running hospitals”).

Today, the Torygraph runs this wet fart:

To save the NHS, copy supermarkets….Up and down the country, at self-operated check-outs, you do what the store used to pay people to do. It is called ‘the customer adding value to the business’.

Again with the tills. Can these people really be so impressed by self-service tills? Don’t a lot of people – especially that sort of nimby boomer type – profess to hate them? Doesn’t the Torygraph itself regularly whine about them? Yes, yes, it does.

It gets worse, though.

In most A&Es, figuring out what drugs a confused, elderly patient is taking involves guesswork or a battery of tests. The simple solution would be for the hospital doctor to interrogate the patient’s GP record from a computer in a hospital. Alas, mostly, it can’t be done. Systems don’t talk to each other.

You mean we need some sort of programme for IT in the NHS, on a national basis? Like a really big database? We could call it the NHS National Programme for IT. Hmm. I wonder if the paper ever wrote about that? Yes, yes, yes, it did but it didn’t seem to like it much. Apparently it was a farce, chaos, Stalinist, misleading patients, a disaster, and abandoned. All of those were true, I should point out.

These people just blab out the same tired bollocks about supermarkets as if it was true, interesting, or new, even after the project ended up in a smoking hole in the ground, and even after Tesco itself’s humiliation.

The depressing thing is that Roy Lilley (relation? I don’t know) could do better than this glib drivel. He seems to be a Tory councillor who was on the board of an NHS trust some time before the great flood (well, 1991 to 1995), but he also wrote this vicious rip on Andrew Lansley’s NHS Chaos Act, for the Socialist Health Association of all things.

He recommended that the PFI contracts should be bought out and all NHS trusts chip in to share the cost, that the internal market should go and NHS Scotland should be asked for advice about how to replace it, community health councils should be re-created, and the Department of Health should take over the mission of the national commissioning board directly. I can’t see anything to disagree with there.

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7 Comments on "Errr…Tesco. Yes. That must be it. Do I get a biscuit?"

  1. Not that this necessarily speaks to the analogy, but the interesting thing about Argos I have always thought is that the process seems to be carefully designed to make it seem more drawn out that it actually is. Also the shops seem to have been designed to have a deliberate prole-grim aesthetic, much as some Tesco Express stores do.
    Then again some NHS hospitals (I am thinking particularly of the Leicester Royal Infirmary) seem to have been designed by someone with a very strong hatred of humanity – it goes beyond indifference to actively hostile e.g. try finding toilets from the cafe. Is there any other institution in the world where you would think ‘ah, a cafe, lots of old and distressed people, let’s make sure it’s impossible to find the toilets’.


  2. I endorse your remark about the toilets in the LRI, though I think that that’s mainly down to the whole place being a palimpsest on a C19th site. The LRI’s design is redeemed, though, by the service tunnel connecting all the cleaners’ break rooms, which is the biz for wildcat union leafleting under the very nose of security. Also, the people who work in it are really, really good.


  3. Yes indeed, but some sort of signs / wide coloured lines on the wall wouldn’t be expensive. The other thing fun thing about Leicester University Hospitals NHS Trust (or whatever it is exactly) is to look at the photos of the board members. What leaps out at you relative to the population of Leicester and for that matter the Trust’s staff? I suppose it was ever thus but honestly.

    Also if you go to visit when there are Rugby and Football matches on good luck finding a parking space. Had to park in the centre by the station and get a taxi. Grr.


  4. To his credit Roy Lilley has been on a long journey and arrived in a very pragmatic place. He’s been involved in NHS management and commentating since GP Fundholding (so 1991?) and has evolved from quite a Thatcherite to someone who is much more pragmatic.

    His evolution is actually great evidence of how reasonable people can see that all the Tory theories on the NHS just didn’t work. One of my first inklings that Lansley’s reforms were going to be a complete disaster was that Lilley was asking better questions about them than the King’s Fund, ahead of time…


    1. Chris Ham has always been an ideological “marketiser” – but as I’m learning, a big part of the problem has been how much effort McKinsey has put into colonising both the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust.

      (I’m doing some part time research on management consulting and the NHS at the moment.)


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