Wednesday 1 April 2020

Maybe a little private enterprise could help here?

Sorry for the absence this week, family illness and other things have taken up all spare time.

The non-stop Covid news is very trying for all of us. The era of 24 media is a distressing one, things are bad enough without the constant stream of inane takes (yes, I get the irony!) across all news outlets, many of whom have given up reporting for the cheaper option of just cut 'n paste Reuters and add some views.

A current issue being raised is the lack of testing for Covid in the UK. Clearly, we are well behind the curve on what we could have done to stop the spread. But us and most European countries.

We should have stopped international football and skiing trips etc. "If only" we will be saying for years to come after this.

However, on the current media spasm around PPE and testing I feel the NHS has a lot to answer for. There is no real shortage of PPE at the basic level, but distribution to the right places has been poor. Moreover,  I know of plenty of suppliers keen to help with equipment, but NHS procurement has long processes and rules - it only buys from those it knows already. Addtionally, it has an aversion to dealing with the private sector. By contrast, in Germany they are very far ahead procurement for testing and PPE but worked with Bayer a few weeks ago to produce an effective cheap test and manufacturing capability.

The NHS wanted to do it in house and to work with Universities and their laboratories. Perhaps they would have been better to speak to GSK or to contract it out to them - but if you have socialised medicine it means a socialised approach. I note the US, for all of its many mistakes, also has plenty of testing does Korea, Singapore etc. The questions are being asked of the government, but as ever in the UK,  complete worship of the NHS (this is not to do down a sterling effort by it frontline currently has to include all its staff - when the admin side we know is very weak indeed) means that the buck cannot stop where the issue lies.

It is not too late to change course, I see the Government has been super keen on "Dyson" ventilators which has had the Left in fits of vapours about Brexit - in reality it is a sensible move in these dark days to put all hands to the pump, literally.

Let's hope the NHS and Government are learing some fast lessons about moving quickly becuase unfortunately the situation is going to get very bad now, very quickly for a time.


Matt said...

Every public sector inquiry says that lessons have been learned but they don't actually learn them because they don't believe there was a problem to start with. Not helped by the fact no one ever gets held responsible (then sacked and pension removed) so there is no incentive to improve.

Suff said...

Interesting that you use Germany as an example. Are they doing a lot higher testing than the rest of Europe. They have a far higher infection to death ratio than everybody else, by a considerable factor. I know everybody has different detection methods ( which is something the WHO should have done something about) which makes comparisons difficult but it’s the one thing that jumps out from all the statistics I have seen. Maybe they are at earlier stage on the curve with lower total infection rates but because they do more testing they have similar positive rates as the rest,
I’m in the Petri dish of Sweden and let’s see how this pans out. I agree with the government here with no lock downs and business as usual. We have a different situation to the rest with low population densities, it’s not difficult to maintain space and we’ve had a flexible work environment for years with people working from home. There’s always the option to close down the economy if the infection rate increases. Of course the government is under a lot of pressure from the unions etc to follow the herd but the majority of people think this is the best policy for now.

dearieme said...

I worry about the worship of ventilators. In Wuhan 95% of those put on ventilators died. Table 2.

It's like worshipping mathematical models. Comes close to idolatry, graven images, and all that.

Nessimmersion said...

1st Not convinced swedish population densities are greatly different from N England , Wales or Scotland assuming that the northern 2/3 of sweden is unused, which would make thw swedish experiment much more applicable to uk.
2nd The following table isa classic example of NHS - wonder of the world.

E-K said...

It will be devastating for the Tories (therefore all of us.)

The narrative being *Tory cuts !*

The fact is that even Jesus got overwhelmed and broke down when he offered free-at-the-point-of-use health care... and he wasn't dealing with a pandemic.

There wasn't the money and time to prepare nor to react to this, therefore. The airports should have been closed ... preferably at the Chinese end ! But we are where we are.

The Tories are being far too polite to the BBC.

Yes. Of course the solution now is private enterprise and a wavering of normal rules.

An excellent post.

YDG said...

This evening Sky were reporting that doctors are being threatened by senior managers if they speak to the press about PPE shortages. They are being told that their social media is "being monitored" and that if they say anything then their position "will be made untenable".

That's pretty standard for NHS managers, but it tells us two things.

1. Senior NHS managers believe that they, themselves are to blame for the PPE shortages.

2. Senior NHS managers are the kind of cowardly psychopaths who bully clinical staff in the middle of a global health crisis.

As The Donald might say. When the British were staffing the NHS bureaucracy, they were not sending their best.

Suff said...

Nessi- I wouldn’t say it was a fare comparison. Even Scotland with a similar wilderness north has three times the population density to Sweden With a land mass twice that of the entire UK and a total population smaller than London, our population centers tend to be more spread out, with more open areas, wider streets, cycle paths EVERYWHERE ( cycling and walking are a mode of transport not just an exercise, from childhood till old age) this in turn leads to healthier lifestyle. As we know COVID tends to target people with other ailments, of which the UK are prolific That extra space and the Swedes, not being the most tactile or interactive of societies means that social distancing is the norm not a guideline.

Nessimmersion said...

Fair enough.
Personally I'd always put that hugging thing down as a namby pamby southern thing. I'd assumed it was like Northumria and north with 90% of people concentrated in the inhabitabke bits of the country.
Certainly the press pictures of the Swedes socialising look very similar to the my memories of Danish social behaviour i.e. keep your distance, which is more like scottish / geordie than behaviour in the deep south.

Anonymous said...

The public will be mostly forgiving of many mistakes - this is the first pandemic of such scale we've seen in modern times, errors are bound to be made, and any and all views could be proved right or wrong.

I'd be a lot happier of the government was more overt on that, as it spikes the gotcha interviews and shadow buffoons.

They're going to be less forgiving of those made for ideological reasons, the government has opted to avoid a temporary UBI and added red tape to the support from banks, which were big mistakes. Funds needed to get to people quickly and pragmatically, paying the "wrong" people is less of a sin at this time than not paying the "right" people, and can be retroactively rectified.

As it stands a lot of people are now encountering UC, the red tape, the delays and bureaucracy, and a lot of SMEs hitting the red tape getting support.

At least they're tackling the latter.

As for the NHS, there needs to be review next year of how things went, and NHS management needs flinging under the bus.

Medical care in the UK needs looking at, private healthcare has a history of "misplacing" documents - read evidence - and the backside covering is an aspect of the medical profession that needs tackling. The NHS gets it doubly bad as the Public Sector likes backside covering, and responsibility dodging too.

I suspect footballers are going to be a lot less popular in the UK next year too.

Anonymous said...

We haven't the ventilators or PPE because they are all made overseas and we're competing with the rest of the world for them (see today's story of the US hijacking, literally on the runway with hard cash, a consignment of Chinese masks destined for France). We haven't got testing gear for similar reasons.

What's depressing is that no one from Government stands up, admits this, and says what they'll do to ensure we're not in this position next time something emerges from an African or Chinese market. Which implies that they're not going to do anything, other than waiting for stuff to arrive from China or Germany.

Equally depressing is that the Opposition aren't asking what we'll do about it either. They're happy to slag off Boris for nurses not having masks, but seem perfectly content with our inability to produce them, happy to wait like cargo cultists for them to arrive from the inscrutable Gods Of The East.

Even Macron seems to have bigger testes than our lot.

Another Anon said...

Anon, I highly recommend watching the news. You should try it.

Bill Quango MP said...

There already is cash going to the “ wrong” people.

Several food businesses I know, butchers, bakers, chicken farms, fresh fruit, etc, have been given £25,000 grant money.
The bakery, in particular, has seven baker shops. Gets £10,000 for each one.
They have never been busier. They have taken people on, not laid them off. Hitting vans just to keep up with the home delivery demand.

Butchers has three shops. Is also hiring vans because of local delivery demand from places far out of catchment.

Another company selling slippers had to close its ‘ non essential’ retail shop. But is doing the same, and more, business on line. With staff furloughed. ( but really working on the online business.) And receiving a free, cash grant.
Garden centres doing deliveries, or even better, those with a food business, which may remain open, are having a fantastic lockdown.

It’s clothing, yet again, that is in trouble. And travel. And phone and large electrical appliances that are badly hit. Estate agents are going to disappear, unless it’s over quickly. Pubs some difficulty too. Their Takeaway business is not a substitute for beer sales. But it does help.

Meanwhile, barbers, florists carpet shops. People I know. No grant money arrived yet. Business closed by order. No work. Can’t go online either. Florists not even have weddings and funerals.

Convenience and food stores are 30%-50% up for March.
And get the grant money. As it is based only on rateable value. And I don't believe banks or building society’s get it. Which will make them close their high street businesses down ever quicker.

Even doctors and dentists aren’t getting all that much support. Something about dentists being ineligible for furlough payments from
NHS. Not sure of the details. But they are annoyed.

Working from homer’s are carrying on much as before.
With little financial effect in the short term.

So, it is a very uneven bailout. With plenty of money already going to those that don’t need it.
Pensioners with investments and interest on savings are hammered.

But, at least it’s going to businesses. Last time it went to banks. And business didn’t see a penny.

Anonymous said...

Weekend question

What if Corbyn had won? What would he be doing now?

Answers below

Timbo614 said...

@BQ: Nice to hear from you Bill, it seems a while, you must be very busy.

Pensioners/savers. The bank has reduced all my online deposit rates to 0.01% That is 10p per annum per thousand :( only 1 fixed rate account is left.

Pubs: I think this is now the longest that I haven't been to a pub for nearly 50 years :(

It seems to me that the chancellor and government must know they are giving half this money away because it i unlikely to get repaid quickly if at all.

So.. did your retail empire benefit at all?

Anonymous said...

My nearest small town has four takeaways, two fish and chip shops, a Chinese and an Indian. All the fish and chip shops are shut, as they are everywhere in my area, but the Chinese and Indian are still doing a roaring trade. Does not compute.

Did you see "The Range" hastily shipped in a few freezers per store and are now staying open as an "essential business". Dirty dogs.

PS - UK now has more official Coronachan deaths than China, if you trust Chinese stats.

Bill Quango MP said...

Hello tomboy. Enjoying the lockdown.

So far, no money from council.
Next door neighbour is worse off.
She has two salons. With ten staff on furlough. But she is earning nothing while lease payments are still due.
Husband is a painter decorator. No work. They are both on UC.