Public Sector Efficency Expo & The New Stratergic Direction

A few months ago I was asked to speak at a workshop event at the Public Sector Efficiency Expo to talk about what we are doing in Suffolk, how it relates to Public services efficiency and our thinking behind it.

So yesterday I arrived at the Speakers desk at the Business Design Centre in Islington and was whisked up to the speakers private breakout area for a quick briefing before heading down on to the main exhibtion Hall floor to meet up with Diane Ridley, Head of Research – Policy, Research and Studies, Audrie Commission.

Our breakout session was called Managing with Less – learning from History , Avoiding the Pitfalls.

The show guide notes read:

‘This session will discuss how councils can plan their approach to managing with less. There is no shortage of ideas on how to make efficiency savings and cut costs; from better procurement and back office efficiencies to service cuts and redundancy programmes. However, bringing these ideas together in a coherent medium term plan that delivers the savings needed at the right time, whilst still preserving the values and priorities of the council, is a real challenge. Based on research on our own history, and form public/private sector and international experiences of managing substantial cuts, this session will discuss why plans sometimes fail and how to avoid the common pitfalls. The session also includes a case study from Suffolk County Council, which will explore the new strategic direction for public services.’

The previous week Diane and I had spoken on the phone and agreed she would not send her slides through until I had sent her my completed presentation, that way those who turned up would get to see the History and Pitfalls from her and then judge for themselves if what we are doing is Suffolk will work or fail.

It was previously agreed that I would chair the session and we were both scheduled to give 20 minute presentations and then 20 minutes Q&A session to make up the hour. The room was packed with some people standing at the back which was very encouraging, I counted about 80 people in total. Diane was up first and her presentation was a fascinating insight into what has and has not worked in the past about  Councils organisational change programmes.

They came my bit, now the troule is if you have ever been to the Business Design Centre Islington you will know just how vast and noisey a hall it is and the workshop session theater was just 4 temporary walls, chairs screen and lectern etc., so the noise was quite something as you spoke and very very distracting. Given the noise levels they had the mics so tuned in that you had to speak right in front of it to be heard; very quickly I had to abandon my normal moving about (to present less of s static target when they throw something has always been my theory) as I started to sound a bit like a poor impression of Normal Collier’s stage act, not I appreciate that is a bit fan obscure reference but for those of us who remember the great comic, you’ll get the picture.

I think both presentations went down well and were well judged as a historically based  litmus test of historic best practice and a current practical strategy to test it against, we then had a full Q&A session with organisers saying we need to stop rather than the session drying up.

Form the reaction of the audience and my own take on the presentation we seem to be doing most of the things you need to do to get these things right.  I have brought back to Suffolk County Council and there is now a body of work looking at what we are doing right and what we can learn from the research.

Once we had left the stage I had a follow-up conversation with the Head of Age UK policy section for a further 45 minutes afterwards, which was very interesting about the whole business of the Big Society and an aging population.

I spent the rest of the day enjoying visiting the various stands, chatting to fellow delegates and listening to other speakers in the workshops and in the Plenary sessions.

P.S. Another Conference Organiser saw my presentation on the Expo internal resource centre video section and I have been asked to give a plenary speech to 400 or so delegates at a Conference on the 16th May at the QE2 Centre in London, so what we are doing here in Suffolk is certainly of interest to people as he all try to work out how to continue to deliver the services our communities value and want with a lot less money to do it with.

Visit to Norman Power Centre Birmingham

Peter Tempest, Cllr. Sue Anderson and myself outside the Norman Power Centre in Birmingham

A wind sweep cold early morning on Ely Station is not my favorite way to start the day but this morning I was on my way to Birmingham to meet up with my opposite number on Birmingham City Council Cllr. Sue Anderson.

Sue and I met at a conference a couple of months ago and we got chatting about Residential Care Homes as you do! I was intrigued when she said they had actually closed 29 Care homes and transfered residents to private homes and how they were working in partnership with NHS Birmingham in the delivery of 4 new joint community, day, residential and enablement facilities. She also said that as a part of the process Birmingham University had asked to do a research paper on the effects of the transfers on Residents. I said I would love to understand what they had done more and to see the research and so we fixed a meeting.

Just before we arrived at City Hall I met up with my Service Director Peter Tempest and went for a coffee to calm his nerves after he had driven and become entangled in the infamous Birmingham one way system. Birmingham is one of those great cities where the Council offices are a testament to a past era of Civic dominance all very grand with large individual offices and lots and lots of brass and mahogany.

In terms of comparisons, Birmingham whilst a metropolitan urban authority has a very similar spend on Adult Services and overall Budget to Suffolk’s. It’s also worth noting that Sue is a Liberal Democrat Councillor in a coalition administration with the Conservatives.

Sue came down to greet us and off we went to her very large office where first we meet her Director of Adult Services Peter Hay and her portfolio officer support assistant Suman McCartney, I am very envious of this level of support something we do not have in Suffolk.

They filled us in on the background and the decision making processes that lead to them taking the closure route and the thinking behind the 4 joint centers with the NHS.

Peter Hay then left us and we traveled with Sue to the Normal Power Centre and met with a number of her officers who talked us through the thinking and philosophy of the centre, After a sandwich we then had a grand tour of a truly excellent community facility.

I was asked to give a quote for their internal NHS newsletter to go with the photo and I said:

“In visiting the Norman Power centre it was great to see what can be achieved when the Community, the Council and the NHS work together.” 

Both Peter and I really found the day useful as we make the final decisions about which route I propose to Cabinet on 24th May as to which is the best route to no longer be a provider of Residential Care Homes in Suffolk whilst still supporting 2,800 people in the private sector.

The Birmingham University research paper makes for interesting reading and I intend that it is one of the links in the cabinet papers when they are released, as it provides extremely useful background information.

My thanks go to Sue, Peter, Suman, Pauline, Devinder, Sonia and Diane; along with the other centre staff we meet for taking the time out from their busy day to help us here in Suffolk make the best possible decisions.

Suffolk Health and Well Being Board – a workshop

On Wednesday afternoon I and about a hundred others, gathered at a Community Hall in Ipswich for a workshop to launch the collective discussion on what the future Health and Well Being Board in Suffolk should look like.

On the face of it a very dry subject but for anyone who, like me, watched the Dispatches Programme on Monday night about the palliative care received by a few patients both in hospital and at home, was enraged by what I saw and I suspect happens all too often across the country this is a really important subject, that at some point in all our lives will be the difference between us being treated with respect or descending into a complex and confusing system of Orwellian complexity.

On Monday night its not that I was not so sorry for those who were receiving the care, for I was, its not that I did not feel for the families trying to navigate around a system that is clearly total madness, for I and anyone would, its not that I was enraged that professionals did not care or that no one was trying their best because clearly they mostly were; I found myself shouting at the TV because I know roughly how much each intervention costs and in almost all of what I saw it would have been cheaper to provide a 24/7 nursing staff in each case; to call an ambulance, attend A&E and be admitted is just about the most expensive nights stay its possible to have in this country and the sheer number of interventions to someone’s home costs a fortune particularly when it’s an Ambulance; we must, must do it better, it will be cheaper and provide a better quality of care.

That’s why I was so encouraged to see Councillors, Local Government Officers, Doctors and NHS Staff from across Suffolk come together and that the energy from the room was full on; as was the sheer determination for the new structure not to be bureaucratic and for it not to be a talking shop. The overriding need for people to genuinely pool budgets for the benefit of the residents of Suffolk was absolutely evident.

If we can sustain this energy and commitment through out the process of finding a better way to deliver health and social care in Suffolk, and come to think of it other services as well; I am sure the work being put in now can achieve cost savings and deliver a better standard of care for all of us.

I personally am looking forward to the next event as we work towards a new way of doing things here in Suffolk.

%d bloggers like this: