Sunday, 11 December 2011

Enduring Migration, Some Information, and Christmas Beckons.

Those of you who are regular readers of this Blog will have noticed that today’s blog was posted some three hours later than normal. I have been temporarily forced into a new Sunday morning regimen through something called Migration – and I have to say I am not a happy bunny!

Migration in the context of IT is the movement from one system to another. Strangely in a world that I assumed to be constructed around certainties and formula based approaches, it is unsettling to be told that the people managing this migration cannot tell me when I will be migrated. So until I am migrated, I have to turn off my computer at 18.00 and not turn it on again until 07.00 the following morning. This procedure has to be adhered to for the next seven days – so it will make for an interesting time I think. Still it could be worse. Our IT systems migration and hopefully improvements might have been undertaken by the same people as those involved in the failed NHS IT system.

According to the Times this week Margaret Hodge (a Labour MP), and chair of the Public Accounts Committee, described the American firm in charge of the failing NHS IT project as ‘cowboys’ who should be ‘run out of town’. Incredibly it seems that Computer Sciences Corporation was looking to increase its contract by a further £2bn even after it failed to deliver any fully functional software to the 166 NHS trusts in England. Margaret’s outrage is interesting given that way back in 2008 it was known that Labours £12bn NHS It project had run into serious trouble. Launched in 2002, the Labour Government NHS IT project was supposed to revolutionise the health service. A report published by the Public Accounts Committee last week reported that the scheme has fallen behind schedule and costs have escalated.

The cost of the electronic record element of the NHS IT project is estimated at around £7bn. To date, the Department of Health has spent £2.7bn on it. Last week the Government announced they were cutting their losses and intend to spend the remaining £4.3bn on better systems that have been proved to work and offer more value for money. However, not everything is to be lost. Spine, which stores patients' care records, the N3 Network offering a broadband network to health workers; NHSmail a unified, secure email system for the whole service, and the Choose and Book system, an appointment booking service are to be retained and developed further. The NHS has partnered up with Intellect and the Technology Trade Association to take the NHS IT improvement forward. These organisations mainly work with small to medium size companies and for me it’s great to see an antidote to one-size-fits- all approach in action.

And talking of which, this weekend the Christmas Branch went up. Now over the years this alternative (Rainbow Warrior style) approach to cutting down Christmas trees has been both ridiculed and loved. A long time ago, I would supplement my income by working in the Welsh plantations cutting down and dragging hundreds of Christmas trees out of the woods for this once a year extravaganza. I earned pence for each tree, and I knew back then that one day I would not cut any more trees down. I don’t do artificial Christmas trees, so the alternative for me at Christmas has been a Christmas Branch. In my current home I am fortunate to have a number of big mature Beech trees in the gardens, and every October I select a branch and cut and store in the garage until this weekend. Then in it comes to the house and accompanied by Sherry and Mince Pies, the branch is dressed.

In compensation for my personal and perhaps reckless deforestation of Wales, every year I also buy a ‘Christmas’ tree with roots and plant this outside, sometimes in my gardens but sometimes on the hills that surround the house.

And wandering around my garden yesterday looking for somewhere to plant this tree I couldn’t help but notice just how well Mother Nature does in dressing her own trees. For example, both a Crab Apple tree with its miniature bauble like fruit and a Silver Birch with its funky fungi looking splendid in the autumn air.