Monday, April 29, 2013

IT, as the government sees it

Today marks the start of government's new panacea for ending all the arguments surrounding unemployment benefits (Universal Credit scheme).
There has been a lot of argument, pro and con, over this new plan (when everything around you is failing, get a new plan!). The scheme appears to build on the system of tax credits as introduced by the last government which is designed to ensure you don't end up with less money by taking up employment, compared to what you may have been receiving when unemployed.
Personally, while I can see some merit in that idea, I think it is really a sneaky system of rewarding employers who don't want to pay a decent living wage.
Whatever, the scheme comes into operation today in Ashton-Under-Lyne in the form of a pilot.
I have no idea of the financial aspects of this new scheme but one thing about it which sticks out like a sore thumb is the "Claim on-line only" rule.
Let's imagine someone who has been working on poverty level wages for some time and can not afford broadband costs etc. Are they now expected to borrow money in order to make a claim? No, says the government, use your local library who usually will have internet facilities.
Would that, by any chance, be one of these local governments who have had to suffer savage budget cuts and the same ones that, in order to accommodate these budget cuts, have been closing libraries left, right and sideways?
As the scheme is rolled out nationally over the next couple of years, will the whole unemployment/social security thing end up being on-line? If so, this would surely lead to the closure of what Job Centres that still exist?
Still, the government persists in this blind faith in their mismanaged IT systems.
Remember the National Identity Card IT fiasco? Cost billions in IT costs before the government admitted it was useless and abandoned it.

The NHS has a lot of faith in their IT systems, hoping eventually to join up the entire nation from your local GP to the leading specialist hospitals. The theory is that all the necessary data concerning your health will be available at the click of a mouse to whichever health care official needs it.
Well, here's an example of how well the NHS IT system works.
This week, I received a letter from the NHS offering me an appointment to go and get my Aorta scanned to see if I was hiding any aneurysms. A grand idea.
Except the introductory letter starts off by explaining that this screening is being offered to "all men in their 65th year". As maths currently works, my "65th year" would have been that period between my 64th & 65th birthdays. So my 65th year ended almost 1 year ago. Another publication included in the post was a note telling me how this is offered for men approaching the age of 65.
How did they decide they should send me this letter and arrange the appointment for me?
I would guess their IT system had run through a database, seeking all males born at a certain time. This would then spit out the names and addresses and generate the letters, appointments etc. Their IT system obviously wasn't smart enough to "do the maths". Maybe their boffins don't understand that a person is in their 1st year of life until their 1st birthday arrives. They then enter their 2nd year etc. etc.
Worrying isn't it?
It doesn't stop there though. I recently and reluctantly had to go and see a GP about a mysterious swelling in my leg. The swelling was in the calf but while talking to the GP, I pointed out, more than once, how I had had a mysterious skin discolouration and a a change in tecture of the skin on the shin of the same leg. When this discolouration had begin to fade (after 4 or 5 years), the swelling at the rear of the leg appeared. Did the GP take any notice? Nah!
He arranged for me to have blood tests and an X-Ray. Then he had a sudden change of mind, realising he wasn't sure what sort of blood tests were needed! Once he made up his mind on this, I went off for the tests. A couple of weeks later, I phoned the surgery to say I was concerned that I had  heard nothing from them. "Oh, we don't tell you, you have to contact us to find out the results".
I see. So I went back and saw a different GP who told me there was nothing in the blood test results. She came up with a new theory and sent me to the local hospital for a chest X-Ray. The lady who took the X-Ray told me the pictures would be scrutinised by a specialist who would pass on to my GP surgery any findings and the surgery would contact me to let me know when the results were back.
That was a couple of months ago and I have heard nothing. I know what the response would be if I contacted them; "Oh, you should have called us". How would I know when to call when the hospital themselves couldn't say when they would be done?
What has this to do with their IT systems? Simple really. Spending approximately £12 Billion a year on IT systems, they could simply send an email or electronically generate a form for transmission to my surgery etc. The IT system in the surgery would flag an inbound update relating to patient X and tell the lazy cow behind the desk to call this patient.
Too bloody simple! They expect patients to telephone on a daily basis to see if they have any information. And, when told "not yet", to telephone again and again. Unless, of course the patient doesn't have a phone. What happens then?
If they are unwell, are they to be expected to get a bus just to arrive at the surgery only to be told to try again tomorrow?
Or maybe they should get someone else to do the inquiring on their behalf? We know how that conversation would run; "I can't divulge that information. Data Protection ...blah blah".
Maybe the NHS should leave their IT systems to manage the huge salaries of their "managers" and allow people to manage patient data.
NHS, DfWP or Home Office, the government's record is tragic when it comes to IT.
Sort yourselves out and stop throwing away the taxpayers' hard earned money!

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