Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Wednesday 17/04/2002Prudence gets a day off, as 'Golden' Brown unveils yet another selection of fun ways to spend our money. Chief beneficiary in today's cashfest is, as predicted, the nation's favourite health service.

Wednesday 17/04/2002

Prudence gets a day off, as 'Golden' Brown unveils yet another selection of fun ways to spend our money. Chief beneficiary in today's cashfest is, as predicted, the nation's favourite health service. We'll now be spending the gross national product of Belgium on the NHS -- well, we will if we can persuade Belgium to hand it over -- and of that, quite a lot will be going on IT.

Already, the radar screens of the early warning defence system -- Teabag or no -- is filling with signals reflected off the vultures' wings as consultants scent the heady perfume of easy pickings. It's not as if money hasn't been spent on health IT in the past, nor as if IT doesn't have a huge part to play in the beefing up of the health service. A good friend managed to get an appointment with a skin specialist only because matey scanned in a suspicious spot, printed out a glossy pic, went down to the hospital and dropped it into the consultant's pigeon hole: think how all that could have been improved.

All this cash will be spent in vain if there isn't ferociously good oversight on projects. You can't trust the Civil Service to understand IT -- it patently doesn't -- and as for leaving it up to 'committees' staffed by the sort of companies that make tons of money flogging the selfsame stuff, well. We have to have a system of peer review and open input, mediated through full public disclosure on Web-based discussion areas: none of this 'commercial-in-confidence' nonsense. If companies aren't prepared to be subjected to public scrutiny on public projects, they don't have to take part. There are plenty of good people able to take part and willing to contribute what they can, a la open source.

After all, it's our money and our health.

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