Monday, February 18, 2008

Updates From BOM Correspondents

Pork trouble

1. Pick 'n' Mix

There's a jaw-dropping report from The Register's Mystery Croaker on road testing the NHS Supercomputer's Choose and Book module for arranging hospital appointments (HTP John B):

"We change the flakey login details (not quite 'admin-password', but close) to something slightly more secure, and see that the system has correctly identified us, Dr Dan and our chosen hospital, and that's there's a waiting time of approximately 45 days...

...The system goes away and thinks about it, then apologises. The slot's already taken, and it disappears from the list. OK, try the next one - pause, thinks, no, sorry that slot's already taken. And so on. Feeding the obsessive completism of his inner geek, the Croaker cuts swathes through the available appointments, none of which actually are, until Choose and Book gives in and confesses that it's not possible to book an appointment online, and we should phone the number instead..."

You get the idea. After two weeks of frustration and fruitless phone calls the Croaker returns to his doctor no further forward.

Depite costing us £12-20bn - depending who's talking - the Supercomputer will never walk unaided.

(See many previous blogs on the NPfIT gathered here)

2. St Athan

Regular readers will recall the egregious case of St Athan airbase in south Wales (see this blog).

The MOD has been closing air bases to save money and St Athan was originally scheduled for the chop. But when it was pointed out to Des Browne that it's in a Labour marginal, he miraculously announced that St Athan would be saved. It would become Britain's new Defence Training Hub, much to the relief of local MP John Smith. Instead, training would stop at Blandford Camp in Dorset, and at RAF Cosford in the Wrekin, terminating thousands of local jobs in two non-Labour constituencies. It was classic pork barrelling.

But wind forward 12 months. Squeezed from all sides, Browne is back-tracking. A large chunk of the St Athan deal is not now going ahead (see here). With thousands of jobs on the line, there's been much local outcry, and local "saviour" John Smith MP has been left extraordinarily exposed.

Especially when you see how he's been bigging himself up at taxpayers' expense, in the local media.

All of this is fully documented in a dedicated campaigning blog snappily entitled Your MPs AMs and Councillors on St Athans Military Academy . Theoretician writes:

"On the 31st Jan when headlines were telling us that part, at least a third of a huge £15bn defence training academy ear-marked for St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan was being ditched John Smith MP was looking foolish publishing 4 whole pages in the Glamorgan Gem singing the praises of the academy and himself.

He said in large print!! "the door remains firmly open for the whole training programme to be delivered at St Athan" - using taxpayers money - his parliamentary communications allowance"

You'd hardly credit that any MP could be so crass and egotistical as to misuse taxpayers' money like that. Especially when his boasts turn out to be so cruelly false. Let's hope local voters take due note.

(HTP Anne).


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