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BlackBerry use saves UK police over £100m a year

Manufacturer seeks to highlight potential efficiency saving from mobile technology

Using Blackberry smartphones on the beat saves police forces across the UK £112m every year, manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) claims.

The devices allow officers to access and update records on the move, resulting in more time spent on the streets.

Bedfordshire Police has been using the smartphones for around four years to access Police National Computer (PNC) information, helping avoid overuse of the radio network and its operators. The Blackberry's secure password and encryption technology allows secure connection to the PNC.

This has brought the force a 10% increase in the time officers spend patrolling the streets. 82% of officers thought BlackBerrys helped them to do their job and 75% said that it would matter to them if the force took away their device.

West Yorkshire police officers use BlackBerrys to report crime and work on prosecution files away from the station.

RIM sought to highlight the potential for efficiency savings as police budgets face funding cuts. "We have tens of thousands of devices being used by police officers around the UK and every device delivers efficiency benefits to the officer that uses it through a host of applications that have been specifically designed for those in the police sector," said Graham Baker, senior manager of UK public sector at RIM.

"For example, officers are also using BlackBerry smartphones to access warrant information and DVLA databases, meaning they can make arrests on the move without checking back with base," Barker claimed.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.