Thursday, September 13, 2007

Not a nice day

One of the rare days in recess spent in London. I had decided to attend the press conference accompanying the launch of the Health Select Committee's Inquiry into the Electronic Patient Record. Nearly didn't make it because of the usual struggle to find a parking space at any of the local stations (one day soon this will become a spectator sport).

During the press conference (during which a spat developed between various members of the committee) I received a text message telling me about a shooting in Chandlers Ford. I asked my researcher to obtain as much info as possible so that I could decide what to do. Inevitably there were a number of web sites with differing information. A nightmare.

What seemed to have happened was that the police had intercepted an armed robbery (full marks for intelligence) but there had been shooting with one, maybe two, fatalities. The immediate reaction of some was that the criminals had got what they deserved but we do live in a society where we no longer have the death penalty so this reaction made me slightly uneasy.

What was of concern was that the police had had advance knowledge of the attempted robbery and had sent armed police officers into a shopping precinct in the middle of the day. The perfect outcome would have been for the criminals to have been apprehended and there would have been no loss of life.

But we all know that life ain't perfect...........

I'm a scientist by training and was one of those annoying "why?" children (some would say that I am an annoying "why" adult) so a number of questions sprung to mind.

The Met were working with Hampshire police. Are there differences in the way they work and was there enough collaboration prior to the operation?

Presumably a plan was devised to take the situation under control without use of firearms. Was this followed? Did something unexpected happen? Were there contingency plans and were these followed to the letter?

Two men were shot. Dead. Was this the only option? Our marksmen are the best in the world - did they have the option to shoot - but not to kill? If so, why not used?

That is why I have called for the facts to be made public. The events were rushed but some witnesses have now reported that a raider had a gun pointed at the head of a Security Man. Others have said that the police were shouting instructions which were clearly not being followed. In fullness of time the truth will emerge and all of us hope that the outcome can be fully justified and that it was the only way forward.

In the mean time I will say that the following thought was at the back of my mind. I occasionally shop in Central Precinct. I could have been an innocent bystander at the time when shooting took place. Can we be reassured that there was not a danger to the public? I hope so. Can we be reassured that this was the only outcome which would have avoided loss of innocent life? I hope that can be proved too.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Later this week the Health Select Committee's report into The Electronic Patient Record will be published. I can't say too much about the conclusions of the report but it was a fascinating inquiry and could have been a lot wider.

During the course of the inquiry the committee members were keen to see a hospital system being used "in real time" and we had decided to visit Winchester. I won't bore you with the details but we were actively discouraged from visiting Winchester and led to believe that they didn't really understand the system.

My curiosity was roused so, as Winchester is just down the road, I asked if I could go and talk to them about Connecting for Health and its implementation. They were very keen for me to see for myself so today I found myself at Winchester discussing NHS IT. Contrary to expectation I found that staff at Winchester had an excellent grasp of the system - its merits and demerits - and had put in place various contingency problems where they did not consider the NHS system to be roubust enough.

I was puzzled as to why the visit had effectively been blocked and then I learnt that the gentleman in charge of implementation at Winchester had, a few years ago, worked at Whitehall on NHS IT. I can't help thinking that maybe he knew too much......

Hospital food and cleanliness

Visited Winchester Hospital today. The visit was prompted by a flurry of letters complaining about a number of aspects of their service. To be fair the hospital has been without a Chief Exec and a Trust Chair for some considerable time so this cannot have been helpful. Also to be fair, some of the problems have been acknowledged and are actively being dealt with.

Actually the food was really good (although I would like to have eaten it served up from a hospital catering trolly to get the full effect) and I am told there are regular patient surveys. They appear to be trying hard on the cleanliness front as well although a visit such as mine can only ever provide a snapshot of a particular selection of places at a particular time.

There is one thing that really bugs me about British Hospitals though - Why does no one ever think about storage? Every hospital I visit appears to be littered with patient trolleys, computer terminals on wheels, drug trolleys and various types of medical equipment. Have the architects who design them never heard of cupboards and store rooms?

There were also lots of plans for improvement - smaller wards will make a big difference to patients, so hopefully things are looking up.