Friday, 28 June 2013

The new NHS: in one easy to understand vid

Twitter is awash with links to this video on the Kings Fund website explaining how the new NHS will be working.

You can access the video here.

I am posting this for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is a very helpful video and it will explain to you how the new NHS will be working. (It is still complex by the way!) Anyone who wants to know about such matters... go watch the video!

Secondly, and probably most importantly for me right now: my daughter, Jess Harvey, project managed the video! She works with an extraordinary outfit called Creative Connection who make lots of these kinds of videos for a whole range of people. 

So congrats to The Kings Fund for commissioning this piece, Creative Connection for having such a fab team of people and, of course, my daughter Jess who brought the video all together.

Yey! (From a very proud Dad)

Friday, 21 June 2013

SME friendly procurement: a radical tool

For over two years I have been an active member of the Cabinet Office's SME Panel. The other members come from a wide range of businesses including software development, travel agency services and food supply. We have met about eight times as a full panel and there have been several sub groups meeting at more regular intervals.

The Panel began following a summit hosted by the Prime Minister and Francis Maude. I am still unclear as to how I was invited along to the original summit and thence to the panel. Perhaps it was down to my humorous rant against the excesses of some procurement approaches or the fact that I dared to challenge David Cameron at the summit about the scandal of battlefield soldiers being isolated in tanks which are not adequately equipped for the real situation, because those soldiers had no input to the procurement process. We need 'whole system procurement'.

One of the pieces of work of the panel that I became closely involved with was the creation of an 'SME friendly' tool, designed to change government and public procurement forever.

This tool has now (finally!) been uploaded to the Cabinet Office website and I can proudly (and publicly) tell you more about it. You can access the tool here. The tool has been trialed  in a number of central government departments and thence refined into the version on the net. The Cabinet Office have informed the SME Panel that its use is now growing across Whitehall and beyond.

I regard it as a positive sign that the Government does mean business about reforming procurement and is still persuaded that leveling the playing field so that more SMEs can bid for government contracts is valuable.

There are some of my colleagues on the SME Panel who are very concerned that there are indications that the Cabinet Office has been taking its foot off the pedal a little, of late. They fear what we are seeing is a growth of larger organisations still snaffling (to use a technical term) too much of government business in ways that mean the taxpayers and citizens are losing out (big time). While there does appear to be a belief that if the large primes sub contract their work to SMEs then the taxpayer will still reap the big rewards of lower spend and more innovation (which is largely not the case when you factor in embedded supply chain margins and large prime practices), I am more sanguine.

Changing government and public sector procurement was always going to be a long haul and I am realistic enough to know that there are many deep vested interests in maintaining the status quo. I am also aware there are many practices ensconced in public procurement departments that unwittingly favour contracting with larger suppliers. (If you are a public sector professional and you want someone to come in and help you uncover these practices and change them... just get in touch!)

In sum, I am hugely proud of the efforts that the small team, of which I was a part, put into creating the 'SME friendly tool'. Within this self assessment tool, there is hope for not only fairer procurement processes but critically also processes that result in lower costs, more innovation, better outcomes and investment in growing business in the country.

What other government tools can achieve all that?!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Quick fix, stay fix and the art of getting more from less

I have just uploaded a couple of videos to youtube (parts one and two) where I talk through a model that I have been explaining for many years (with live hand drawing!). The model is grounded in total quality management and continuous improvement (which is where I began my consultancy career).

It is not a complicated model. However many people have told me that it has really helped them to understand the significant challenges faced my them as leaders, in trying to get more from less.

Resources are very tight and demands are even greater: whether you work in the public, voluntary or commercial sectors. The need for organisations to work more elegantly has never been greater.

So please, have a look at the videos and let me know what you think. You can find them here: (Part One & Part Two)

I have also written about this model here too, if reading is more your style.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Payment by Results and lamp posts

Many years ago at school, I studied SMP Maths. I always remember the cartoon at the front of the chapter on statistics. It showed a drunken man leaning against a lamp post. The caption read: some people use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp post, for support rather than illumination.

And so yesterday, the Ministry of Justice published

Statistical Notice: Interim re-conviction figures for the Peterborough and Doncaster Payment by Results pilots

I was drawn towards this document by a combination of Russell Webster's excellent blog and the BBC news at midday. It kind got up my gander a little bit as it seemed to be exercise in political punditry rather than a clear analysis of whether the new Payment by Results regime may actually be working (or not). With my gander raised, I emailed the statistician involved with a number of questions which I reprint below.

The questions are a bit geeky, I know. But I do think it is vital for us all to know the precise evidence for whether PbR can work or not. Feel free of course to comment or indeed write with your own questions too.

Dear Mike Elkins

I have just read through your publication. I have a number of questions and I would be most grateful for your thoughts:

1.       The pilots began on 9 September 2010 and the 1 October 2011 (Peterborough and Doncaster respectively.) Please can you qualify “began”?
2.       Given that “the next Proven Reoffending Statistics quarterly bulletin will not be published until 25 July 2013”, why did you publish your results today rather than a few weeks from now?
3.       I understand that “the interim re-conviction figures being published in this statistical bulletin are based on periods half the length of those that will be used for the final results” – daft question I am sure, but presumably this applies to both the ‘experimental’ subject averages and the national comparators?
4.       You say that these “interim 6 month re-conviction figures are available for almost all of Peterborough cohort 1 (around 850 offenders) and half of Doncaster cohort 1 (around 700 offenders)”, please can you explain what has happened to the other portions of the cohorts and why they are included?
5.       In terms of methodology, you say “offenders enter the PbR pilots after their first eligible release from the prison within the cohort period”, please can you explain “eligible” in this context and whether the national comparator figures also cover the same “eligible” group?
6.       You explain that the key difference is that reconvictions only count offences for which the offender was convicted at court, whereas the National Statistics proven re-offending measure also includes out of court disposals (cautions)” and “Additionally, there are a number of other differences between the pilots and the
7.       National Statistics proven re-offending measure in terms of which offenders are counted within the cohort”. Are you able to say what difference these differences might make to the figures? For example, what number of offenders per hundred are usually subject to a caution (or similar disposal) as opposed to a court conviction?
8.       Again I assume that given that the “Peterborough pilot includes offenders released from custodial sentences of less than 12 months, whereas the Doncaster pilot includes all offenders released from custody regardless of sentence length”, the national comparisons are on a like for like basis?
9.       You explain that the “success of each Peterborough cohort will be determined by comparison with a control group (of comparable offenders from across the country)”. How will this ‘control’ group be selected to ensure there is no inadvertent or unknown bias? Indeed was there (will there be) any form of randomised control trial element to either of these two trials (and extensions)? If not, what is your considered professional judgement as a statistician as to the validity of these results to guide future practice?
10.   For Doncaster, success “will be determined by comparison with the reconviction rate in the baseline year of 2009”. How will this accommodate national and/or local trends in (say) sentencing practice or levels of crime?
11.   Given that normally reconviction rates are measured on a 12 month basis and these interim results are measured on a 6 month one, how much is that likely (based on past data) to have depressed the reconviction rates?
12.   You say “Whereas in this publication, to eliminate the risk of seasonality and enable a consistent comparison over time, all figures relate to offenders released in the 6 month period from October to March”. I may well be missing something here, but by only using the six winter months, are you not likely to increase the risk of a seasonal effect in the data? Please explain further.
13.   Given that the Peterborough cohort finished on 1/7/12, and allowing for the 6 months plus 3 (for court delays), this takes us up to March 2013. So on this basis, why have the last three months of data (April, May and June 2012) been excluded? (As far as I can see there is no explanation of this decision, but forgive me if I have overlooked it.)
14.   Given that I assume that data is ordinarily collected on a quarterly basis, it would have been helpful to have presented your data in a similar way so that trends could be spotted over time rather than use the fairly arbitrary 19 month period to show the data. Why did you present it this way? Please could I have the data on a quarterly basis.
15.   Given that you must have the data for Peterborough for the missing 19 month period (September 08 to March 11), and acknowledging that this overlaps with the pilot beginning, please could I have this data nonetheless.
16.   Likewise, please could I have the data for the quarter beginning April 2012.
17.   You say “Nationally the equivalent figures show a rise of 16% from 69 to 79 re-conviction events per 100 offenders”. How do you get 16%? I can see a rise of 10 ‘points’ or a rise of (10/69*100) 14.5%.
18.   (As an aside, this is quite a large rise nationally in re-conviction rates comparing the period from just before the last election to period after. Have national rates continued to rise or have they levelled off now?)
19.   You say “these interim figures show a fall in the frequency of re-conviction events at Peterborough” which is drop from 41.6% to 39.2%. At what threshold of probability is this statistically significant?
20.   Please can you confirm that the OGRS scores cited relate to the cohort groups in both Peterborough and Doncaster (rather than all offenders who were released)?
21.   Why are the national re-conviction scores given next to Doncaster data (which average 32.9%) differ from the scores given next to the Peterborough data (average 37.9%)? I know the period is different and there is some missing data, but this still seems like a large difference…

I look forward to your thoughts

Many thanks


And now I wait...

UPDATE: FoI inquiry has been acknowledged. 20 working days or less to go... (140613)