In the name of the law

The London bombings have intensified the debate over the government’s plans to introduce compulsory identity cards. SA Mathieson reports

The plans discussed here were broadly those which entered law through the Identity Cards Act 2006. I wrote about identity cards from 2002 until 2011, and have published a history of ID cards in Britain: more information here.
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Rewriting the script: the NHS and electronic transmission of prescriptions

A version of this article appeared in Health Service Journal, 9 December 2004

Of the three main applications within the English NHS’s National Programme for IT, electronic transmission of prescriptions (ETP) looks the least controversial. The Care Records Service’s online database of patient records causes concerns over privacy and security, while attitudes towards the Choose and Book electronic booking system are coloured by views on patient choice.

By contrast, ETP does not create new flows of data: prescription details already move from GPs to pharmacists, then on to the Prescription Pricing Authority (PPA), allowing it to reimburse pharmacies for the difference between real cost and charged price. Under ETP, this data will move electronically rather than on paper, hopefully cutting errors, saving money and time.
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Your life in your hands

Since 1998 the emergency services have been able to automatically locate 999 callers dialling from landlines. Now this potentially life-saving technology is starting to embrace mobile phones as well. SA Mathieson reports

I have written several times about mobile phone locating, including on services using the same technology to track children, and what the mobile networks actually hold on users. This is on an uncontroversial use of the technology, for locating those calling 999.
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Private pain, public gain: learning from the private sector

A version of this article appeared in Public Service Magazine, October-November 2004

Chancellor Gordon Brown’s plans to cut posts from the civil service rely heavily on greater use of IT. He told the House of Commons on July 12: “It is precisely because the public sector has invested £6 billions in new technology, modernising our ability to provide back office and transactional services, that I can announce… a gross reduction in civil service posts of 84,150.” A further reduction of 20,000 posts from local and devolved national governments is also on the cards.

The newly formed HM Revenue and Customs department is to lose 16,000 posts, largely as a result of rationalization of back office functions and increased use of IT.
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