I never cease to be amazed at the ways the Department of Health find to waste money.
Every Trust (community, hospital or PCT) is now required to do an annual survey of staff opinion. However, the Trusts aren’t allowed to produce their own survey, they have to employ a company (and there are just a handful of them) from an approved list, and these companies don’t come cheap, around £4000 a time (per Trust, per year) seems to be the going rate. And the questionnaires, by the way, are pretty fatuous, and no doubt designed to report back that everything is wonderful and that we are all most grateful to Mrs Hewitt.
The largest of these companies is called Quality Health Ltd, a company wholly owned by Dr Reg Race and his wife (the doctorate, by the way is not a medical one, it is a PhD from the University of Kent on the subject of bureaucracy). Quality Health claims to work for 360 NHS Trusts, although curiously, when Mark Hoban MP asked a question about the company in the Commons on 16th April, the minister, Andy Burnham, claimed that the DoH had had no contact with Quality Health in the period 2001-2007 ("why not?" you may well ask, if they are such a successful supplier of services).
Reg is a pretty persuasive chap, or so I hear from those senior managers at Bedford Hospital to whom he gave a presentation last week. What Reg didn’t trouble to tell them is that Reg Race is a former Labour MP and still active in the party. He is recorded by the Electoral commission as having given the party £10,000 in January 2007, and recently gave Alan Johnson £5000 for his deputy leadership campaign.
So here’s how it appears to work (and forgive me if I misunderstand things). You tell trusts to run questionnaires; you ask your mate to design the questions; you tell the trusts they have employ one of your mates; your mate says thanks and gives your party something in return. Oh, and by the way this is public money which could have been spent on patient care. Or perhaps I'm missing something.
Incidentally, Reg Race does have one claim to parliamentary fame; he was the first Member of Parliament to be recorded in Hansard as using the word "****" during a Common debate