Doing it in theory and doing it for real

One of the thoughts that dogs me when I am writing my blog is trying to ensure the topics I write about are not divorced from reality. It’s very easy to fall into the trap that says that IA is the centre of the world, that everyone understands what IA is for, and why it is important. So I try to always plant my writing in the real world and relate it to real stuff. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard. Today, however, its very real, and I am good and proper irritated

One example of the real world is my experience the weekend just gone. I spent Sunday sat with my daughter who was admitted to my local hospital for a rather nasty eye infection. The care she received was top notch, the nurses and doctors friendly (and ridiculously young looking – OMG, do I sound like my father?). The food appeared to be OK, although I did sit and watch my daughter wolf down a Sunday roast only to discover they don’t feed parents … and the cafe is shut on a Sunday … and my daughter nearly stabbed me with her fork when I tried to quietly pinch one of her roast spuds. Still, they do a great cup of tea, which I am partial to, and Mrs S arrived with Babybels and my favourite dodgy continental sausages, so I survived, albeit smelling slightly of garlic.

My ire is that my daughter was admitted with the same thing she had earlier in the year. However, the Ward had no record of her previous stay, no access to her GP notes, no notes of her current medication, and so we started from scratch, with me trying to remember the key facts to relate to those youthful doctors. Endlessly as it happens because there is no central system for recording this, so the ENT Doctor, and the Eye Doctor and the Ward Sister all asked me the same questions for their different records. Now, I was rather under the impression that NPfIT and CfH* were going to render this process obsolete, speeding up diagnosis, treatment and recovery times, freeing up bed spaces quicker, making the whole system more efficient etc. If I was in a ranty mood (and actually I am), I would ask, just what the blazes was all the money spent on? We’ve spent BILLIONS on NHS IT systems, and I know I live out in the sticks, but it’s hardly downtown Lagos is it? Where are the Shared Services? How come it took 48 hours to get my daughter’s records down from a central, PAPER- BASED repository? I am frankly terrified. If they can’t get this sorted, what chance is there of making sure that when they have it, it’s been looked after correctly? That is my child’s data, your child’s data, their child’s data.

Chatting to Sophos’s legendary Health Sector Manager, Jonathan Lee, it seems the upcoming changes to the NHS structures will offer a new approach, but I wonder whether it’s going to speed matters up, or slow them down again. If it slows them down again, the processes I saw yesterday are entrenched for another couple of years.

The NHS is often beaten with a stick for being the worst organisation in the Public Sector for data breaches. The counter argument given is that with their size and volume of data, this is hardly fair. Indeed, if you compare on a per capita basis, they do rather well. But the terrifying programmatic inefficiencies combined with the paper-based system at the front end do make you wonder what is going on at the back end?

* National Programme for IT and Connecting for Health

PS She’s home now and on the mend. Thank you going out to the team on the Childrens Ward who cared for my daughter :o)


About Graeme Stewart, McAfee

I work for McAfee as Director of Public Sector Strategy and Relations, UK&I
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