Monday, 3 December 2012

Proposed closure of an A&E in south London

The NHS is proposing to close Lewisham A&E. Here's what the local doctors say in a petition to David Cameron:
We, doctors in Lewisham, have grave concerns about the proposal to downgrade emergency medical and surgical services at Lewisham Hospital made by the Trust Special Administrator (TSA) for South London Healthcare NHS Trust. Lewisham Hospital is not part of that trust. It is a solvent, successful organisation that delivers high-quality care to its patients. Yet the TSA has taken the extraordinary view that Lewisham’s Accident and Emergency Department should close to admissions, leading to closure of acute services including full maternity services, and that most of the hospital site be sold.  

Emergency services are vital for the population of Lewisham, which contains some of the most deprived wards in England.  Lewisham Hospital’s new £12 million A&E department opened as recently as April 2012 in response to the need for expanded services. The TSA’s report asserts that the need for emergency care would be reduced by 30% simply by providing more care in the community. However, there is simply no clinical evidence to back this up. In any case Lewisham Hospital has already been innovative in working with social services to provide more care at home and avoid admissions in patients with chronic illness. Our intensive care unit has excellent standardised mortality rates. Our new birthing centre has high maternal satisfaction and provides high-quality care to a community with a high proportion of ‘high risk’ births, which would be jeopardised if maternity services are lost or downgraded. Lewisham Hospital features in the top 40 hospitals in the CHKS rankings. It its acute services are lost, they could not be provided by others without risking patients' safety and quality of care. 

The TSA’s review fails the “four tests” that you and the Secretary of State for Health have recently laid down in Parliament. It does not have the backing of GPs. It does not have public support, as the demonstrations, public meetings and the petition have shown. It is not based on sound clinical evidence (detailed responses from groups of clinicians, including GPs, are at Even the report itself acknowledges that it will not improve patient choice. 

Your government's response to this report has an importance beyond Lewisham. The report is an attempted regional reconfiguration, tacked onto the statutory regime for an unsustainable provider, which is being used here for the first time ever. The report was drawn up to statutory timescales that are much too short for a considered reconfiguration, with the result that the clinical consultation is desultory and the clinical evidence is of poor quality. If this report is accepted as it stands, it will create a dangerous precedent for the rest of England. Furthermore, the TSA has produced a report which perversely recommends that a solvent and successful organisation be punished to save a separate, unsustainable provider. We doubt that this is a signal that you will want to send to the NHS and the public.     

We urge you and the Secretary of State for Health to reject the recommendation that Lewisham Hospital lose its A&E and acute services.

Here's another view.

Here's the outcome.of the decision.

Update 31st July 2013

So far the Courts agree with us, the plan has been overruled. It is a dumb and not legal decision to leap over the fence to beggar a performing NHS Trust to fund another failing NHS Trust in an adjacent area.

Benefit inequality

Picked up from the Internet:

The British Government provides the following financial assistance:-

(bearing in mind they worked hard and paid their Income Tax and
National Insurance contributions to the British Government all their
working life)

Weekly allowance: £106.00?   

(No Income Tax and National Insurance contribution whatsoever)

Weekly allowance: £250.00

Weekly Spouse Allowance: £25.00?   

Weekly Spouse Allowance: £225.00

Additional Weekly Hardship Allowance:£0.00? 

Additional Weekly Hardship Allowance:£100.00

A  British old age pensioner is no less hard up than an illegal
immigrant/refugee yet receives nothing



 The average pensioner has paid taxes and contributed to the
growth of this country for the last 40 to 60 years.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Peterborough Hospital PFI

The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) uses the equivalent of a full operational lease used by many governmental authorities in the UK. Financiers form a company borrow the money to (re)build a new hospital. The PFI company then leases back the building to the local Hospital Trust, but there's a kicker. As part of the deal the PFI company also gains exclusive rights to provide services such as facilities management within the hospital. It is a very very expensive method of financing the hospital (re)build.  In recent year Governments liked this method of financing because it does not show up on the capital borrowing total for public finances, it is in effect a future operating cost. These contracts go on for 30 - 50 years. 

It would be much cheaper for the public purse if the Government was honest and just borrowed the money up front and built the hospital using their own managers. In the news today is yet another report of a Hospital Trust struggling to pick up the bill for a PFI. Peterborough and Stamford hospital Trust have been criticised by the National Audit Office for poor financial control and mounting debt.

Much of the unplanned cost comes from the provision of services not included in the original contract. Minor changes such as moving a phone or installing an extra shelve must be be purchased via the PFI company. As there is no competition these costs are greatly inflated by the PFI company.

The consequences of the "overspend" caused by the PFI is that hospital staff including nurses are made redundant. Clinical services are cut back.   Peterborough Hospital PFI was agreed in 2007, it is a very nasty financial legacy left by the Labour Party Government at the time. I've seen estimates of £800 Million required to rescue the hospital finances.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Post-Sandy situation predicted

Many of the post Hurricane Sandy problems in New York and New Jersey could have been alleviated if the authorities had followed the guidelines in my Foundation of Honour Handbook and had set up social groups to help after the event of a major regional disaster.

Such problems as:
  • Lack of fuel;
  • No access to power;
  • Contacting lost friends and family;
  • Limited food and shelter;
 could have been prepared for in advance and local populations be prepared for self help at a low cost.  Copies of the books are available on Amazon in e-book form. If anyone cannot afford the couple of bucks price contact me at and I'll send you a copy free.

There are other measures the authorities could have taken like forcing gas stations to hold 15 days supply of gas with protected standby generators to allow the pumping of fuel when mains electricity is available. The "just in time" stock holding of 2-3 days gas (petrol) might make a slight improvement in short term  company profits, but it is a lousy call when it comes to public infrastructure resilience.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Wickes Kitchens

Wickes is a builders merchant in the UK. They have been around since 1972. They are part of the Travis Perkins plc group. They advertise quite frequently on the national TV projecting the image of reliability and a "Job Done" approach.

Sadly that has not been our experience. We are severely disappointed.

We purchased a fitted kitchen from them on 26th May 2012 (Order Number 890924). We paid in full on the 26th May as part of their conditions of business.  The price included fitting.  Here we are on the 8th September 2012 not knowing when this kitchen will arrive or when it will be fitted. Yesterday we had a phone call to follow up an earlier letter telling us the kitchen parts would be delivered Saturday (today) between 8 am and 10 am.  The call said the driver would call us before arrival. The fitter had said installation would start on 10th Sept.  That's 15 weeks delay on the part of Wickes.

The kitchen has not been delivered, there's no contact from Wickes and yesterday afternoon the fitter called and said he'd hurt his back and might not be able to attend on the planned Monday start date. We tried to call their Help Desk and learned it is only available Monday to Friday 9-5:30.

We want to thank Wickes for wasting our Saturday and leaving us in the dark. What happens on Monday? Do I have to make arrangements to stay at home?

Is the Travis Perkins group so short of money that it needs us to act like a bank and have us lend it £9000 free of interest for 15 weeks?

Getting the van ready to drive around the City of London

Update @ Sat 8th Aug 13:10 The truck arrives. They'd had two previous deliveries (allowed 15 mins each by Wickes) bur each delivery "took a couple of hours, because they were flats". They couldn't call us because "they didn't have any phone numbers".  We'd given Wickes a couple of numbers when we placed the order, in any case is there no reason why the driver couldn't have called their HQ and had them call us to advise of the delay?

Update Mon 10th Sept @ 10:15am
No sign of any Wickes fitters at our place this morning to install the kitchen, nor any phone call as promised to explain when this work would be done. Apparently the fitter had warned Wickes that he might be off sick (injury) today. As usual Wickes do not seem to care about inconvenience to their customers.There's no point in calling the original salesman, he was moved to another Branch.

Update Mon 10th Sept @ 13:45
I called Wickes Help Desk again, not having heard anything for a couple of hours. The regional installations manager has, after my earlier call (10:46), arranged an alternative fitter to visit tomorrow at 1pm to assess the work and possibly start on the following day (Wednesday). The manager confirmed in the call that Wickes have no formal procedures in place to check why installations are delayed past their "normal period of 4 - 8 weeks" after the date of order, it is left to the customer to raise concerns. In effect Wickes had 64 hours during which they could have resolved this before start of play today; but they didn't.

In a further example of customer friendliness I note the comment from the Wickes Helpdesk representative (S_______e)  who briefly handled my call; "You should expect it to take between 24 - 48 hours for us to handle a query."  It seems that I've had the Red Carpet treatment so far. It will be fascinating to see what Wickes manage to deliver on their latest promises in the next couple of days.

Update Wed 12th Sept
The replacement sub-contractors have commenced work on time and are getting stuck in to the work. As Wickes uses sub-contractors as its fitters there was very little handover from the previously assigned fitter so we had to do a full review of the plan. It turns out that while "everything" was delivered there was a missing item which the sub-contractors will have to contact Wickes to sort out. 
Interestingly in the original order process  and subsequent discussions I deliberately asked Wickes if their fitters were Wickes employees and was told they were employed by Wickes. Strictly speaking the fitters are not employees, they are self-employed/ working for small companies carefully selected by Wickes. They have a contract to supply services to Wickes. One consequence is the fitters will try to take on as much work as possible, which in my view could lead to scheduling difficulties. I just dislike the misleading response from Wickes which implied the fitters were direct employees.

Update Wed 19th Sept
The replacement sub-contractors employed by Wickes completed their work on Monday (17th) afternoon. They were good and took care over their work. They tidied up and placed the rubbish from the install in a large yellow bag in our front garden for collection.Sadly the Wickes design didn't fully match the room so a couple of set of draws have been return to Wickes (Monday) for refund. No news from Wickes on the refund, so I'll have to chase them again. Grrr!!

The sub-contractors managed to devise a fitting from cut-offs from the installation, so the work looks tidy (pictures, also shows floor replacement), but we didn't get what we paid for in terms of installed kitchen furniture. 

One annoying thing is that we were left with a 2.5 metre length of solid oak worktop from the installation. The designer had ordered two x 3 metre lengths to make up the parts for the installation. You would have thought that Wickes could have sourced a 0.5 Metre length off-cut of their worktop. The list price of the 3 Metre lengths is £324 each. So we (Wickes) wasted the the better part of £150 after discount, though I guess it increased the Wickes profit.

The rubbish collection is sub-contracted by Wickes to Hippowaste, but these people haven't turned up within the promised "48 hours", more inconvenience for us and our neighbours  who kindly kept that part of the street free from parked cars. This is once again poor control of process by Wickes of their sub-contracted suppliers. We still have a Hippo squashing the plants in the front garden, with no clear idea of when it will be taken away.

The effective charge per man-day of the installation was £300/man day; I'm pretty sure the sub-contractors don't see all of that money, but it might be a useful comparison if you are considering using alternative fitters to install the Wickes Kitchen unit.

In summary:
  • The Wickes kitchen units look robust and well constructed, but don't buy them unless they are at sale prices;
  • Their appliance prices are high, you'll get cheaper if you look around;
  • Don't use Wickes for the actual installation. They retain good installation sub-contractors (Note: not employees!), but their management of those resources is poor. They do not realise when things have gone wrong. The Wickes communication procedures with the client are poor.
  • Don't believe their delivery timings, you are destined to sit waiting at home for at least a whole day. Their delivery staff are helpful and efficient when they arrive.
  • Don't believe their timings for waste collection.
  • Double check and triple check the design produced by Wickes before signing, we had some wasted space behind cupboards and a couple of units too  large for the gaps.
  • Remember Wickes insist on a 100% deposit, i.e. payment in full when you sign the order; make sure you pay by credit card or you'd have no leverage if things go wrong. 
To give Wickes their due, when I made their HQ aware of the events through this Blog I received a phone call from one of their managers who called and gave a genuine apology. They've also resolved the surplus worktop issue. Hopefully they'll benefit from my criticism and avoid inflicting this on other customers. It doesn't take rocket science to sort their procedures.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Aftermath of NHS Walk-In Centre closure

I've written earlier about the death by attrition of an NHS Walk-In Centres (WIC) in the United Kingdom. The concept of a nurse led WIC is to provide primary health care to patients who walk in off the street without appointment. The nurses are highly skilled, highly trained and carefully selected. They are examined in physical assessment skills, their work is routinely audited for best practice. They work to careful designed medical protocols which allows them to assess and manage the majority of minor illnesses. The nurses are also trained to recognise conditions which should be referred to specialist medical practitioners. The senior nurses in the team usually posses Master degree level of medical training and take separate training and assessment to be allowed to prescribe medicines.

I'm keeping track of one WIC which was closed down and the team transferred to a local A&E department of an Acute Hospital Trust. The highly skilled primary care Matron who had led the WIC nursing team was within a few days forced out of the job and was replaced by a less senior A&E nurse who had no training in primary care.

In the past 6 months the skilled WIC nurses now working under A&E management have been subjected to a programme of bullying and repeated comments that they lack the competence to undertake primary care work. The people harassing the nurses have little or no primary care knowledge/experience. There have been arbitrary bans on the WIC nurses performing the role they'd practised many years before in an autonomous way. Note that the WIC team previously had a very low rate of complaints of medical mistakes. Make no mistake, the Acute Care A&E management is trying to force the WIC nurses out of their jobs while retaining the budget funding for their primary care work.

This may all sound like internal politics, but it has a serious impact on service to the local public. The WIC in question used to have about 400 visitors a day. Some of those would be streamed away without medical treatment, but most patients were seen in less than an hour.. The local A&E now regularly breaks the four hour rule for treatment and has a much higher error rate. Skilled Nurse Practitioners like this person are the type of experienced nurses being forced out.

Edit 27th Aug 2012: Or look at Suffolk NHS who posted on their web site: 'Only visit A&E if you are dying' a few months after the decision to close their minor injuries unit and transfer the staff to A&E.

10th Sept 2012: I lose no tears over Andrew Lansley getting the sack as the Health Minister. Sadly the NHS will continue to suffer the effects of the chaos he's caused for many years.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Foundation of Honour tunnel system

The secret tunnel system of the Foundation of Honour as mentioned in the Adam Cranford series of books need to be diverted. The Foundation has discovered the plans of the National Grid will run extremely closely to one of the Foundation's main tunnels and subterranean rail system hidden under London in the UK. The Cross Rail project comes close to one of the Foundation's tunnels, but no work will be necessary to avoid conflict.

These tunnels were mentioned in the book Company Mole but do not appear on the official records and plans It is likely that the National Grid and the Foundation tunnels will not actually intersect, but the Council of Elders have chosen to divert the existing system.
Work has already commenced to resolve this problem. I'll probably include a mention of this work in the next Adam Cranford book which is work in progress. There will be no interruption of  tunnel transport services and telecommunication services during the works.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A couple of new books

I've recently published a couple of short books for the Adam Cranford Series.

The first new book The Foundation of Honour Handbook (ISBN 9781907250101) is for new members of the Foundation of Honour. It contains such things as Code of Conduct, Ranks, Membership structure, Activities and  the Foundation's role in Public Service (Civil Defence).

The second new book Design of a Foundation Moot (ISBN 9781907250118) describes the features and design of the central meeting building for a local county company of the Foundation of Honour.

At present they are only available on Amazon using their Kindle service, but don't worry if you do not possess a Kindle as Amazon provide free reader software for use on other devices such as PCs. If there is sufficient demand we'll make them available in a printed format, subject to the agreement of the publishers. All of the Adam Cranford series books are available on Amazon except for one called Teen Valour People which is on Lulu.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Finally the BBC realises!

The BBC has finally realised that NHS Walk-In Centres are being closed. I've written several blogs about this. The closures have been pushed by Andrew Lansley's GP friends.

It all boils down to less service availability for patients. Have you tried to get an appointment with your GP recently? The Government claim the services have not been cut. Well all I can say is they've not been in the street themselves. They are liars!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Signs of further UK NHS destruction

Further evidence of the Andrew Lansley programme of destruction for the NHS emerge:

Hospital waiting list "recategorisation" 12th June 2012; patients are being dropped off waiting lists for operations.

NHS Care being rationed. BBC report 19th June 2012; access to some operations being restricted.

This will all get worse when the control of funding is passed to the committees of freelance General Practitioners under the present Andrew Lansley plans.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Young heroes

We held the "Baby Shower" for my son's wife at our house yesterday. It went really well. It is great to see the generation we raised coming through to parenthood. It turns out one of the guys at the party (in his 20's) is a film and TV star. One of the young ladies who was also there is a star of a London West End musical. They both friends of my son. True to my fuddy duddy lifestyle I didn't recognise their names or careers until my son told me afterwards. It is great to see these young people building their careers.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

UK NHS cuts.

Another sign of the deterioration of the UK's NHS care under the Andrew Lansley plan. A GP practice chops patients because they are too expensive. These people are close supporters of Lansley.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Lack of hospital beds in UK

It is sad that I feel duty bound to use my blog as an author to raise the problems I see with the UK's National Health Service, but where else can one get one's views in the public view? The bloated administration of the NHS is sucking the lifeblood out of the service where administrators with no clinical experience are on six figure salaries. At the same time skilled clinical staff are losing their jobs.

Take for example the reported shortage of hospital beds (BBC article - Nick Triggle). The Government deny there is a shortage, but if you talk to any A& E Matron and you will hear a very different story. Patients are regularly kept waiting because of bed shortages. The hospitals employ "Bed Managers" whose sole job is to chase the clinicians in the hospital wards to discharge patients early.

The problem with hospital beds is that a "bed" has become a unit of accounting in hospitals. The bean counters find it very convenient to work out the "cost of a bed" by taking the total running costs of a hospital ward/unit and dividing it by the number of beds. Don't forget they also impose the "management overhead + PFI costs" into those running costs. It is not just the medicines, doctors, nurses and ward staff. The bean counters then have an easy to use spreadsheet figure called "bed cost". The cost figure gets absorbed into the management mythology and the people using it forget the original components of the cost.

When senior hospital management realise there have/are going to run out of money they'll introduce cost cutting measures. Some bright bean counting spark will say "if we cut 20 beds from the service we'll save a lot of money over five years". As a consequence patients lose access to those beds, but the overhead hospital costs never go away.  Let's be plain about this: A hospital bed only costs about £5,000 When a hospital "closes" a bed, they don't sell the bed to reclaim the money. The hospital still has to pay infrastructure costs, floor rent, the administrators costs are still there, the PFI costs remain.  The action doesn't reduce the number of patients, people still get sick.

The hospital planners/administrators need to get away from the concept of a "bed cost" and use more realistic accounting methods. 

Here's another view of the problems by a Doctor.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Absolute stupidity of NHS Reorganisation

Before the last general election in the UK the leader of the Conservative Party declared that he wouldn't impose yet another re-organisation on the NHS if he was elected as the new Prime Minister. Promptly on arrival as the new PM he handed control to a dubious politician called Andrew Lansley. This silly man promptly set about reorganising the National Health Service. He has this "bee in his bonnet" that is he removes layers of management from the NHS and hands control to General Practitioners (Doctors) they will magically reduce the public costs of the NHS. This man Lansley has the stubbornness of a dead donkey and the listening ability of a beach pebble when it comes to listening to the views of the massive majority of the health care professionals. Just about everyone says scrap the new new re-organisation.

Here's some of the problems:
  • The GPs are independent contractors (I have a letter from the Dept of Health confirming that); their own profit comes first. Giving them control of the purse strings give them the opportunity to avoid any measure that would reduce their profit.
  • The GPs won't have spare time to run the national organisation or even local ones. They'll just re-employ the bureaucrats who used to run the defunct Primary Care Trusts. It won't save money.
Here's a real life example of the changes in progress right now. A friend of mine is a Nurse Practitioner. She's a highly skilled medical practitioner who has a cluster of medical degrees, over 30 years experience who works without the need for clinical supervision at the level of GP/Registrar. Her costs are about half that of a highly paid GP. As a direct consequence of the re-organisation she is being made redundant. Well not exactly redundant, the patients she used to see are being redirected to the local A&E department. The cost the public purse per patient has increased by a factor of three and queues will lengthen in the A&E. 

This senior nurse's redundancy settlement has yet to be agreed, but by the Departmental rules the additional cost to the public purse will be close to £500,000 if an unfair dismissal claim is to be avoided. Meanwhile the same group of GPs who pushed for the closure of the Nurse Practitioner's department are looking to employ her on a freelance basis at a Doctor's rate of pay. The nurse didn't ask for the re-organisation and she doesn't want to be made redundant. She is a strong proponent of the NHS. How many times is this type of situation going to be repeated throughout the NHS?

Monday, 19 March 2012

Who's snooping on your site?

We occasionally check who has been accessing the websites set up for each of my published books. This is fairly easy to do because every time someone visits a web site there's an electronic trail left in the log files on the web server computer. From those details we can check who owns the IP Address of the person/organisation making the enquiry.
On the Company Mole web site we found one interesting entry(IP: leading back to a company called Cyveillance Inc which is owned by QinetiQ. QinetiQ is the research company which was spun off from the British Ministry of Defence. It is often involved in classified work and the Intelligence services.
The log entry showed Cyveillance had scanned all of the Company Mole web site. A look at the Cyveillance public web site shows as part of their public activities they are involved in "Brand Protection" for major corporate organisations. Interestingly our CM web site is set up so it can only be accessed by name "", so this was no random search. Maybe Cyveillance has discovered the truth about the Foundation of Honour? Is Adam Cranford now recorded on a secret massive intelligence database?.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

GPs in charge of chaos in the NHS

I've posted before on the matter of NHS Walk-In Centres being closed in the UK, now I've experienced it for myself. Unusually I've come down with a cold which has migrated into a chest infection. For the first time in 15 years I've phoned my local GP Practice to ask for an appointment to see my GP so I can get a dose of antibiotics to knock this infection on the head. No appointments for 3 days, even then that would be with a locum doctor. GPs should not be allowed to hold the NHS purse strings.

What do they expect - should I let the infection progress until I end up in A&E?  There used to be a Walk-In Centre in the locality managed by experienced nurses where I could be seen fairly promptly, but that has been closed, the next nearest WIC closed a couple of months ago.

I'm going back to bed and hope that my body can deal with the infection. I've contributed money to the NHS all my life, and now when I need their assistance I've been let down. Nice one Andrew Lansley! He is so keen to listen to the well paid GPs and let the Walk-In Centres slide into oblivion.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Black Hole devours nurses

I've earlier written about the death of an NHS Walk-In Centre, I'm now watch the terminal stages of this process in one location. It's nothing new I've seen it before and I'm sure the remaining Walk-In Centres will suffer a similar fate.

This is a direct consequence of Andrew Lansley's misguided leadership of the NHS. Abolition of the Primary Care Trusts have left Primary Care Walk-In Centres without any real sponsors. The General Practitioners (GPs), who now hold the purse strings in advance of actual parliamentary approval, will not save the Walk-In Centres because it disturbs their Edwardian business model of private practice partnerships.

No, the WIC I'm watching has been handed over to the black hole of a local A&E department of an Acute Trust Hospital. The once highly efficient team of Primary Care Nurses is being torn apart. This is a team which has worked for 10 years, rarely breaching patient time waiting targets and almost zero serious patient complaints. Nurses who were trained to work as autonomous practitioners who are qualified and able to assess medical conditions and to prescribe treatment. Their clinical leader has been elbowed away and replaced by an A&E nurse manager who has no experience of Primary Care medicine. The remaining Primary Care nurses are looking for new jobs having been told they are "not competent" by someone who has no experience in their skills. The GPs who once worked as part of the team are refusing to work with the new management. Within a few months little trace will be left of what was once a strong team.  

One remaining question  is what happens to the funds assigned to the WIC Nursing team? Does it get buried in the A&E hoard? What happens to the (average) 200 people who used to go to the Walk-In Centre? Their needs don't go away.

Update May 2012:
The Matron of the A & E Dept which absorbed the WIC has resigned. She's tired of the bullying from senior managers and clinicians, meanwhile the Matron of the now closed WIC is in the final stages of redundancy. It all seems a silly waste of resource to me.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Lottery strategy

When buying a lottery ticket, only buy one row on the card. The odds against winning are so remote buying additional rows doesn't make a great deal of difference. It's a bit like dividing infinity by two, it is still infinity. Your lucky day will either happen or it doesn't.

Now I'm going to suggest something contrarian. If you buy one ticket, always buy a second ticket but using exactly the same numbers for the same day as your first ticket. In that way if you win the jackpot you guarantee getting a greater share of the jackpot if other people also get the winning numbers. At the very least you can tell the wife that you have a winning ticket for the lottery in all good faith ....

Monday, 23 January 2012

Stupid Vendors

It's been a really annoying past couple of days. The angst has been caused by stupid vendors and their idiotic approach to identity checking. The trouble started on Sunday when my wife tried to change mobile phone supplier and purchase a new phone. The phone was only £70 and the monthly contract was only £20 a month. She's already got an existing mobile phone service supplier, but has to change for external reasons, at her new offices only O2 has any real coverage and she's with Vodafone. So after waiting close on 20 minutes for an O2 shop assistant and another 15-20 minutes while he fussed over the paperwork while my wife gave full personal details banks, accounts, produced bank cards, etc the assistant finalises the order then peers at the screen and announces that my wife has to produce a passport or driving licence plus a utility bill. Why couldn't he have done that at the start?

We found it really annoying, I had my driving licence, but that was not good enough. We've lived in the same location for 29 years, own the property outright and have good high paid stable professional jobs. My wife didn't have a passport/driving licence with her, so we told they they'd lost the order and walked away. When we got home we placed the same order on-line with Carphone Warehouse and it was accepted, or so we thought.  This evening we got an email from Carphone Warehouse saying the order with O2 had failed on a credit check!! We have do debt, we've never been late in paying bills. Carphone Warehouse cynically suggested we tried other vendors through them, but if we wanted to check the credit issue we should talk to Equifax. 

To talk to Equifax we have to create copies of three identity documents and send them to Equifax, wait for that to be processed, create an account, purchase a credit report (using the same credit card rejected by O2) and wait until the report is delivered. If there is anything wrong on the report we can then "challenge" the record.

It was at that point I remembered getting a call from the (a catalogue company) security department asking if I'd raised an on-line credit account with them. To which I replied "No, I never use credit accounts." After a couple of weeks they came back to say they'd investigated and realised that someone other than use had used our address and obtained goods on credit and then not paid for them. ISME put a marker on our credit file. We'd not done anything wrong, but ISME had been stupid enough to send goods to another address, because they'd never delivered to our house. So through ISME's poor procedures our home address has a black mark against it through no fault of our own.

O2 are probably relying on the Equifax report which probably has reference to the ISME screwup. It doesn't appear to be relevant to O2 that I already have two active  mobile phone accounts with them registered to that same address. They'd prefer to mess my wife around with their crude credit processes.
Well, they will pay the price for their poor procedures. I always punish such bad service. They're going to lose one of my mobile phone accounts and that will cost them dear. If Equifax has the slightest wrong data on our files I'll be getting them to provide evidence in support or I'll be off to the Information Commissioners Office.  O2 and their parent Telefonica will pay in the long term too, unless they come up with a respectable solution. I often get the opportunity to steer the telecomms business of some quite large companies in many locations in Europe.

To top it all Amazon's computer system insisted I use instead of It really screwed up the testing I doing for the release of a new book. Nice one Amazon, set your business policy on what Amazon execs want rather than what the customer needs.

Edit 26th Jan
My wife decided to bite the bullet and go back to the O2 shop with a print of her clean credit record, driving licence, utility bills. We were in the shop for 105 minutes as the shop assistants struggled through the O2 computer procedures to issue a £70 phone. It is unfortunate that O2 have a service monopoly in the large building where she works otherwise we'd have told them to get lost. However they won't escape my punishment.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Send to Kindle

I've recently come across a free new tool from Amazon. It is an application which allows you to send documents from your PC to your Kindle device. It converts to either pdf or azw. The application can be found here. Here's some more information about the tool. It seems to work quite well with a couple of minor issues on font conversion which I'll investigate further.

It is definitely worth a try.