RDE declares crisis

Well, we didn’t see that one coming did we – after more than 200 of our community beds were closed.

How on earth do you “prioritise patients in currently in your care” when emergencies happen and when your next nearest large hospitals are 40-90 miles away and having their own crises?

Here’s an idea: have community hospitals and move dying, improving or rehabilitation patients closer to their homes, freeing up acute beds!

“The severity of today’s weather has resulted in the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital declaring a status of ‘internal critical incident’.

The warning means that care is being prioritised to patients already in its care, and it is calling on all available staff to come in to work.

Pete Adey, RD&E chief operating officer, said: “Due to the adverse weather conditions the trust, earlier today, declared an internal critical incident. This means we are diverting all available staff and resources to provide care for the patients who are in the hospital and receiving care from our community teams.

“We are asking staff within walking distance of the RD&E’s main Wonford site to come in and provide help if it is safe for them to do so.

“As we expect the weather conditions to continue, our focus for the next 24 hours is to provide urgent and emergency services and to look after the patients already in our care.

“In view of the treacherous driving conditions, patients should only attend their booked appointments if it is safe to do so. Appointments for all of the patients who cannot reach the hospital and those we have needed to postpone in light of the weather conditions will be rescheduled as soon as possible.”

The RD&E advised Honiton Minor Injuries Unit will reopen at 9am tomorrow.

Tiverton and Exmouth MIUs are open as normal at this time but may be subject to change. Regular updates will be provided.

Mr Adey continued: “We sincerely thank the public for their help and support at this challenging time and pay tribute to our staff who are working incredibly hard to keep our essential urgent and emergency services running.”


Privatisation: Network Rail assets likely to be sold off to billionaire equity funds

“Private equity firms, including Guy Hands’ Terra Firma, have emerged as contenders to take over Network Rail’s commercial property business, fuelling further dismay over the forced sale of assets to fund the budget shortfall.

The US investment giant Blackstone is understood to be another bidder for the rail property arm, which includes about 5,500 premises across England and Wales and is estimated to be worth £1.2bn.

According to Sky News, about 20 parties are expected to table preliminary bids on Friday, including Telereal Trillium, owned by the billionaire Pears family, and also funds linked to the Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs.

Much of the property is in urban areas under railway arches, and often let to small businesses such as bars, garages and hairdressers. The portfolio generated a large proportion of Network Rail’s total rental income of £293m in 2017. Network Rail has said existing tenants will retain their leases under the new landlords.

The involvement of Guernsey-based Terra Firma was revealed a month after a scathing report from the National Audit Office found the government had lost up to £4.2bn in a previous sell-off to part of Hands’ private equity group. The Ministry of Defence sold 57,400 army homes for military families for £1.66bn in 1997 to Annington Homes, and then rented them, which the public accounts committee chair, Meg Hillier, described as “a rotten deal for taxpayers”.

Terra Firma has also attracted attention for its management of the crisis-hit Four Seasons Health Care, whose care homes look after 17,000 elderly people in the UK and which is seeking a rescuer.

The sale of Network Rail assets, including some depots but no stations, was agreed as a condition of George Osborne (who was then the chancellor) releasing more funds in 2015 to continue promised infrastructure work. Network Rail hoped to raise £1.8bn towards a £2.5bn shortfall. A host of rail upgrades in a five-year plan from 2014-19 were cancelled after the budget for electrifying the Great Western mainline alone overran by approximately £2bn. …”

Unions and campaigners condemned the sale. Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT union, said: “This is the same old bunch of chancers, speculators and asset strippers queuing up to make another killing at the expense of our public services. These property assets make a decent income for Network Rail and once they are gone they are gone, smashing another gaping hole in the rail infrastructure budget.” …

… Cat Hobbs, of the campaign group We Own It, said: “Railway land belongs to all of us – we don’t want it parcelled up and sold to the highest bidder. This is an asset which generates millions every year, money which should be returned to the public purse not disappear into private profits.”


Bovis pays out £10.5 m to repair sub-standard homes

“Profits at Bovis slumped last year after the housebuilder was forced to spend millions of pounds repairing poorly-built homes and fending off takeover attempts by rivals Galliford Try and Redrow.

The company was criticised after rushing the construction of some properties and offering customers cash to move into unfinished houses, some of which had plumbing and electrical problems.

The scandal has so far forced it to spend £10.5m on repairs, including £3.5m in 2017. Other one-off costs last year included £4m for restructuring and £2.8m on advisory fees as it tried to see off the takeover bids.

The charges dragged down Bovis’s annual pre-tax profits, which fell 26pc to £114m. Revenues dipped 3pc to around £1bn, despite a 7pc hike in its average selling price to £272,000.

The housebuilder’s previous chief executive David Ritchie resigned last January, just days before the quality scandal came to light, after Bovis was forced to issue a profit warning because it had struggled to build as many homes as expected in 2016. …”


“Accountable Care” – if it walks like a duck …

BMA website link:
What are Accountable Care Organisations (ACOs)?

An ACO brings together a number of providers to take responsibility for the cost and quality of care for a defined population within an agreed budget.

The key feature of an ACO is that there will be a single contract with a single organisation for the majority of health and care services in the area.

The ACO contract holder would be responsible for the provision of services, but may not necessarily deliver all the services itself; it could instead hold sub-contracts with other providers.

This is our artistic impression.


Danger of Exmouth’s “temporary” attractions

Letter in Exmouth Journal:

“There is very important meeting at the Town Hall on Tuesday 6th March at 10 am.

The future of Queens Drive is at stake. Do not be deceived by the description that the planning application is for 12 months only and is “temporary”.

Our Town Council has been bullied and harassed by EDDC paid officials and members of the Regeneration team to try and force this through using the threat of dereliction if they don’t get their way.

This plan reduces the play and recreation of this area to about a quarter. The bulk of the site is to be cheap food outlets and a big screen and spurious as yet unnamed and untested events. To this end to also force the issue EDDC has signed a contract for some play equipment and hired an events manager without consulting our elected representatives.

This area up to now has been protected by the Masterplan for Play and Recreation. Even in the wonderful, could now say fantastical, plans in Reserved Matters last year there is a huge area put aside for water play and other recreational activities. All this can now be lost forever if this so called “temporary attractions“ application goes through in its current form.

If you care about our Seafront, send someone to this meeting. We must stand up to bullying. We must stand up for democracy and above all we must continue to stand up for our lovely Seafront.

Sally Galsworthy, Exmouth”

The business rate retention scam

“Allowing English councils to retain more of their business rates revenue could lead to damaging shortfalls in funding and drive divisions between different areas, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned.

Councils that enjoy the biggest increases in such revenues are unlikely to be those with the biggest spending needs, the think tank said. Levelling the playing field by redistributing the money would address regional disparities but would undermine the goal of encouraging councils to use business rates to boost regional growth.

The government turned the business rates system on its head in 2013 as part of its devolution strategy, when local authorities were allowed to keep half of any real-term growth in revenues or bear half of any real-term fall. Until then, business rates were pooled by central government and distributed back to local authorities as grants.

Five years ago, the ambition was for councils to keep 100 per cent of the change from 2019. That has been revised down to 75 per cent from 2020. The idea was to give local authorities an incentive to boost their revenues and local economies by increasing commercial property development or by cutting rates to attract more business.

The IFS said that the plan may backfire and “lead to divergences in English councils’ funding without promoting growth”. Its analysis of councils’ revenues and spending since 2006 showed that the policy may be flawed.

“The report shows that significant divergences could arise in just a few years under 100 per cent rates retention,” the IFS said. “This is because those councils, which would have seen the biggest increases in their retained business rates revenues, were often not the councils that experienced the biggest increases in their relative spending needs, for example, because their population became older, poorer or sicker.

“It is also not clear that the incentives provided by rates retention will translate into faster economic growth. The report finds no relationship between changes in the councils’ business rates tax bases and local economic growth, or indeed employment or earnings growth, in recent years.”

David Phillips, associate director at the IFS, said: “Areas seeing lots of new developments aren’t guaranteed strong economic growth. And growth doesn’t necessarily rely on large-scale property development.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

So, how is the “Misconduct in Public Office” consultation going?

Here’s the current state of play:

Here’s a summary:

Owl says: chances of reform – zero. Why: there is no will for change from a government that has too much to lose from such reforms!