How much?

First things first, let me point you in the direction of Dr Crippen and his excellent blog – if you’re wanting to know how and why the NHS is pissing money down the drain you’ll find few better sources of information.

All of which reminds me of one of my own brushes with the stupidity that is NHS Bureaucracy.

Quite a few years ago, now, I myself worked for the NHS – not on the medical side but in ‘Community Development’ – Community Development was what the old Health Promotion Units turned to when the government started paying GPs to do their own health promotion work in surgeries in order to aviod becoming redundent.

But that’s, to some extent, by the by and, heretical lot that we were, we actually tended to get some good work done, helped no end by working for a Director of Public Health who understood the value of trying to stop people getting sick in the first place and that that meant dealing with issues like crap housing conditions and all the shit that local factories used to pumping into the atmosphere, etc.

So what I did, for the most part, was information – much of it printed.

So here’s the deal. I got the job and with it – to knock up this information – I got an underpowered PC and some pretty decent DTP software; and budgets being what they were a new PC was out of the question so I talked the team leader into authorising the purchase of a bit more memory so that at least I could work at a reasonable speed.

So, being a bit of geek I do what any good public servant would do (so I thought) and hit the PC magazines looking for the best price I could possible get – which for the memory I wanted turned out to be about £75 from a company on the South coast. So far so good.

Then, I fell in the evil clutches of NHS purchasing…

I dutifully filled in the requisition papers, gave all the details and shipped it off the wherever it was they processed the orders…

…and about a week later I got a call from there to say there was a problem as I’d not chosen to go with one of their regular, approved suppliers.

Not a problem, I thought. This supplier was a good few quid cheaper than anywhere I could find and did a few good deals that might be worth keeping an eye on for future purchase, so just ask them to add them to the system and then place the order. Which I did.

Three weeks later and no memory has arrived – so I phone the supplier, only to get the reply:

“What order?”

Riiiiight!

Back on to NHS supplies to find out what the fuck happened to the order only to find out that this business of approved suppliers is a bit more complicated than was first apparent, the supplier I’d specified couldn;t be added to the system after all and would I like to use one of their usual suppliers instead.

‘Fuck it!’ I thought, ‘You’ve got me’ and agreed.

Wait another couple of weeks and wahey! The memory finally arrives, followed by the invoice a couple of days later…

…at which point I find out that the £75’s worth of memory I tried to order from elsewhere has now cost the project a little over £150 (in the meantime the market price of memory had dropped and the supplier I had originally wanted to use was selling at just under £70).

And what, you might wonder, was the problem with this supplier?

Nothing more than the fact that it only offered 21 days credit terms on purchase orders while companies on the NHS approved suppliers list got there by agreeing to 60 days credit terms – and seeming also by not making too much a fuss if it took anything from 90-120 days to settle the bills.

That’s bureaucracy and the joys of centralised purchasing for you.

  • Thanks for the kind words about NHS BLOG DOCTOR. Yes, we are trying, inter alia, to draw attention to all the minor stupidities and inefficiencies in the NHS, most of which are trivial in themselves, but add up nationwide to a complete disaster.

    The tale you tell above is all too familiar. It goes on every day, day in, day out; there is no end to it. You either go mad trying to chase it or, eventually, to keep your own sanity, you lie on your bag with your legs in the air and giggle, hoping that someone will tickle your stomach.

  • Let me just add that this exact same system is also alive and well in local authorities too, hilariously justified as offering ‘best value’. We just have to continue to put up with over-priced, under-powered IT kit, delivered late and locked-down into virtual uselessness.