Partially sighted: how private healthcare works with the NHS

First published in Health Service Journal, 8 November 2001

The private sector is sometimes seen as a zombie, mortally wounded in the NHS’s founding – yet reanimated by the unholy forces of Tory and New Labour governments.

But according to a book published by the King’s Fund*, past political efforts to kill off the private sector have only fuelled its strength. Now, authors Justin Keen, Donald Light and Nicholas Mays say the government needs to put aside the ideological debate about healthcare funding and face up to the reality of private healthcare, by making it subject to the same standards that rule the NHS.
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Smallest post office gets net

A new network could transform the fortunes of rural post offices. SA Mathieson visits Britain’s tiniest post office to find out more

Visiting the smallest post office in Britain, in a beautiful part of the Highlands, was great fun. This was in the days when Royal Mail was calling itself Consignia, a thankfully brief period in its history.
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Take aim at NHS targets

First published in Health Service Journal, 14 June 2001

Just as the Conservatives loved markets, Labour loves targets. So when chancellor Gordon Brown eventually loosened the Treasury’s purse strings, what came out had strings attached.

Through public service agreements, spending departments are tied to the Treasury, with contracts detailing what they have to deliver, how their success or failure will be measured and what sanctions will result. This use of performance targets has spread throughout the public sector.
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Let me be your fantasy: virtual actors, Final Fantasy, Guinness squirrels and Eyes Wide Shut

This article, on the possibilities and problems with virtual actors, still holds good a decade later. It’s very difficult to produce realistic humans (and why bother when, as one of the Mill’s staff said, there are thousands outside the window) – they either have to be perfect, or they fall into the ‘uncanny valley’ of looking nearly, but not quite, right. Instead, virtual actors are either cartoon-like (the route taken by Pixar) or used to add digital extras in post-production.

I don’t suppose many more films have added naked figures to HELP a film get a lower certificate from US censors – as revealed in the box at the end on Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (a section published in the paper but missing from the version available on the Guardian website).

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New York, London, Paris, Munich: Fear and loathing on the IPO trail

First published in Business 2.0 magazine (UK), July 2000

“Place your bets for the floatation roadshow, financing’s answer to the Grand National. It’s not so much about finishing first, more about simply making it to the line.”

It’s late May, and two Internet executives are mentally and physically preparing themselves for the businessman’s version of an Ironman competition. One is nervous, and the other is cocky as they get ready to embark on what, at the best of times, is a rocky, rigorous ordeal and what, in the current climate of stock market decline, seems downright masochistic. They are embarking on their companies’ IPO roadshow. They hope to encourage investment banks and the public to pour hundreds of millions of pounds into their fledgling operations. Continue reading “New York, London, Paris, Munich: Fear and loathing on the IPO trail”