NHS 111 & decision-support software for ComputerWeekly.com

My latest piece for ComputerWeekly.com looks at the use and limits of decision-support software in healthcare. It certainly has a role; the question is how much it can do, and how much needs to be dealt with by medical professionals.

NHS Direct‘s replacement NHS 111 has, at least initially, made heavier use of software, but is now making greater use of medical professionals. But any software-driven service is likely to be overly cautious, according to my interviewees. “It wasn’t known as NHS Redirect by the ambulance service for nothing,” says Janette Turner of the University of Sheffield.

Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Healthcare, IT, NHS finance | Leave a comment

Marconi on The Lizard: article on radio history for The Register

Following my article on Goonhilly Earth Station in December, The Register has published the other piece I researched while visiting Cornwall last autumn: on how Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian working in Britain, transmitted a signal from Newfoundland to Cornwall and changed the world.

The article is based on two sites on The Lizard peninsula, the southernmost part of Great Britain: the Lizard Wireless Hut, right on its southern edge, and the Marconi Centre and Wireless Field, just above Poldhu Cove on the peninsula’s western coast. Continue reading

Posted in Articles, IT, Seaside, The South West | Comments Off

New one-day NUJ data journalism training course on 18 May

The National Union of Journalists has scheduled two new dates for my one-day course of data journalism training: Monday 18 May and Monday 9 November, both at the NUJ’s office on Gray’s Inn Road in London.

This course is aimed mainly at those already in journalism, who want practical methods that can be used immediately – and who want to know about the pitfalls as well as the benefits.

Specifically, the course will cover how to assess and improve the quality of data; how to combine it, or mash it up, without making a mess; the reality of using the Freedom of Information Act to get material; and how to turn numbers into pictures, whether graphs or maps. I will also talk about when it makes sense not to rely on data. Advanced mathematical ability is not a requirement, although common sense is always useful.

Continue reading

Posted in Housekeeping, Maps, Media | Comments Off

For Beacon: what links the British constitution and ridicule?

The answer, in my piece today on Beacon: neither have their rules written down, which makes them flexible. The British constitution is whatever Parliament decides it to be; and the rules on ridicule have become basically that you can make fun of people based on what they choose to do, not what they were born as.

That means making fun of someone on Fox News over what he chooses to say about Birmingham is absolutely fine, as is Boris Johnson saying this: Continue reading

Posted in Articles, The Midlands | Comments Off

Article on NHS IT and The blunders of our governments

ComputerWeekly.com has published an article by me on the options for NHS organisations on bringing in electronic patient record (EPR) systems, such as big bang (Cambridge University Hospitals and Epic), open source, linking up through a portal and improving imaging (both PACS/RIS and scanning paper records). You can read it here, with copious links to more detailed coverage by ComputerWeekly.com including my piece on Cambridge University Hospitals from December.

The blunders of our governmentsHowever, the clearest lessons I have passed on come from The blunders of our governments, a detailed study of government idiocy by Anthony King and Ivor Crewe. They describe the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), which failed to provide EPRs to most of England’s trusts, as “the veritable RMS Titanic of IT disasters” and “doomed-from-the-beginning”. As they point out, it was started at a meeting “between a prime minister [Tony Blair] who knew next to nothing about computers and a clutch of computer enthusiasts”; it was “wildly overambitious”, “far from being essential” and was apparently never subjected to “a serious – or even a back-of-the-envelope – cost-benefit analysis”. Continue reading

Posted in Articles, Healthcare, Hospitals, IT, Reviews | Comments Off