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Govt: Royal Mail sale 'raised almost £2bn'

The Government has defended the sell-off of the Royal Mail in the face of a damning report into its privatisation, saying the flotation rose £2bn for the taxpayer.

BiS permanent secretary and accounting officer Martin Donnelly explained:

Our course of action was appropriate given the significant risks at the time and the fact that the alternative of a failed sale would have been the worst outcome for the taxpayer.

The sale price secured by the Government was based on a comprehensive process of preparation, in which we took extensive professional advice and consulted with more than 500 investors. We have raised almost £2bn for the taxpayers in the process.

By retaining a 30% stake in the business we have made sure taxpayers have benefited from dividend payments and will continue to benefit from share price rises after the sale.

– Martin Donnelly

Caution over Royal Mail sale 'cost taxpayer'

General view of a red Royal Mail Post Box. Credit: Edward Smith/EMPICS Entertainment

The Government could have achieved better value for the taxpayer through its controversial privatisation of Royal Mail, according to a new report which reveals most investors given priority to buy shares sold them shortly after making a profit.

The National Audit Office (NAO) disclosed that 12 priority investors sold all or some of their holdings within the first few weeks of trading.

Critics of the privatisation said the spending watchdog had offered "startling proof" that the Government sold off the country's family silver "on the cheap".

But Business Secretary Vince Cable said the report showed that the Government achieved what it set out to do - securing the future of the universal delivery service through a successful sale.

The NAO said Dr Cable's department took a "cautious" approach to a number of issues which led to shares being priced at a level "substantially below" the initial trading price.

On the first day of trading last year, Royal Mail's shares closed at 455p, 38% higher than their price sale, representing a first day increase in value of #750 million for the new shareholders.


NHS Confederation: Waiting times are 'creeping up'

The average waiting time for patients receiving treatment in hospital "is creeping up" but remains within their targets, the NHS Confederation's chief operating officer has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Average waiting times are increasing a bit but they are not increasing by a huge amount and 90% of people are being seen in the target time.

If the average waiting time is creeping up, then it shows there is pressure on the system and we need to take a look at that and make sure that things are done to deal with that.

– Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation

Hospitals not 'deliberately' hiding waiting time figures

The health secretary defended hospitals against mounting criticism they were deliberately under-reporting the amount of time patients were waiting for an operation.

Jeremy Hunt told Daybreak the National Audit Office talked about "inconsistencies" in figures, and were "very careful not to say that hospitals were deliberately misrepresenting" waiting times.

NHS director: Waiting times issues 'must be addressed'

Bill McCarthy, NHS England's director of policy and strategy, said:

NHS England firmly believes it is essential to have accurate information provided in a timely way to ensure better care for patients.

The NAO rightly points out where there are problems with data and these must be addressed.

All parts of the NHS have their role to play in ensuring data is collected and recorded accurately including trusts, auditors regulators as well as those who oversee the commissioning of care including Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England.


'Under-recording of three weeks wait per patient'

The National Audit Office report reviewed 650 orthopaedic patient waiting times across seven hospital trusts.

"More than half of these were not supported by documented evidence or were incorrectly recorded," it said.

In 281 cases, waiting times had been correctly recorded and were supported by documented evidence.

But in 202 cases, waiting times were not supported by enough evidence to say whether they had been correctly recorded.

And in a further 167 cases, there was "evidence of at least one error, leading to under and over-recording of waiting time".

"There was an overall under-recording of three weeks (mean) per patient," it concluded.

Hospital waiting times 'mis-recorded', study finds

Some waiting time data was dismissed as unreliable. Credit: ITV News

Some hospitals are failing to accurately monitor how long thousands of their patients are waiting for treatment, a report has found.

Research by the National Audit Office (NAO) discovered trusts in England were often "mis-recording" data, with some saying either patients waited less time than they did for treatment, or longer.

NHS targets say 90% of admitted hospital patients should start their treatment within 18 weeks.

Of those patients who do not need admitting to hospital, 95% should be seen within 18 weeks of referral by their GP.

A fifth of maternity budget 'spent covering error claims'

A fifth of the UK's maternity services funding - £482 million - is spent on insurance against malpractice, a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) suggests.

A fifth of maternity services funding is spent on insurance against malpractice, a report suggests. Credit: PA

The most common reasons for maternity claims are mistakes in the management of labour or Caesarean sections and errors resulting in cerebral palsy, the NAO report states.

Small firms 'face credit shortfall' watchdog warns

Britain's struggling smaller-scale firms face a £22 billion shortfall in the amount of credit they can access by 2017, according to the National Audit Office.

Smaller-scale firms face a £22 billion shortfall in the amount of credit they can access by 2017, the spending watchdog has warned. Credit: PA

The spending watchdog warned that around four out of 10 emerging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have their applications for a bank loan rejected, despite a number of Government schemes to improve lending.

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