Friday, June 16, 2006

Warner on health records: spin first, and have a token consultation too

William Heath is annoyed at Lord Warner's spin on the NHS IT system.

"I see the government is to press ahead faster with electronic patient records. But some people have severe reservations about how this is being done and the likely unintended side-effects. I think their views should not lightly be dismissed. So how can the government ensure NHS IT is built on a Foundation of Trust? The right answer is good consultation. They choose the wrong answer which is spin...

He's dimly aware some people think there's a problem, and understands that consultation is a good word to use in that situation. But he proposes the sort of consultation that gets stuck in a press release somwhere below the public information campaign to explain the benefits, not the sort that helps you work out how to deliver the benefits and avoid the unintended consequences.

My impression of Lord Warner was formed during 1998 when we doing groundbreaking research into the information systems government would use to measure the five pledges on which it had come to power. Norman W (then policy adviser at the Home Office under Jack Straw) sent us a curt and dismissive reply, and after a PQ on the same lines it was clear to us there was no decent system in place to measure these pledges and - with the Hon. exception of Cabinet Office minister David Clarke - no particular interest in talking to people who were good at this sort of thing and trying to open a conversation.

This was part of the horrible dawning realisation that these people aren't very good at doing the job we need from them, and the danger - which has reared its head again and again in thelast decade - that those making the decisions about e-enabled government dont understand technology and don't care about building it on a foundation of trust. Warner is located in my black book as an exemplar of this problem, since ennobled and promoted but no better as far as I can see. One good conversation, one enlightened engagement with him would change my mood. Maybe just expressing my opinion that in my direct experience he's rude and not good enough at his job will make me feel better about it; after all I've been cross about it for eight years now."

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