The Knife, who has done a fair bit of NHS management, admittedly from the viewpoint that most of it is part of some inexplicable cosmic joke, has noticed a growing phenomenon at work: iPads.
When they came out, I actually bought one, at vast expense. It’s nice, but if there’s a laptop handy, that’s what I’ll use. My self-purchased smartphone gives me all my diary and emails, plus internet. My schedule is pretty busy. So what’s it all about?
I ask the typical carrier, a middle grade “manager” in a somewhat obscure role, with the killer answer: “I’m going paperless“. Of course, how could I have been so thick? Paperless is obviously essential. Mind you, I have yet to meet a clinician who is going paperless, or has even been given the option. This manager seems to use their device to draw primitive doodles in meetings and send gossipy emails about how shit the meeting is (usually true).
Computer services in our hospital are a key support group, they’re actually very very useful. Only now they’re inundated with requests from “managers” for iPads and iPhones (naturally), as they can’t configure them, want help with their email, where’s the eBay widget etc etc. So computer services understandably loathe these self-indulgent poseurs who are distracting them from their real work.
Even so, I still want an iPad. Can I have one, I want to go paperless?
“If your budget allows it“. Yes, but my budget is a clinical one, patient care and all that. There is an artificial management budget elsewhere that’s getting plundered by all these deadbeats. So no, I can’t have one.
This vignette though, is just one example of a classic public sector fiddle. MP’s get them, NHS managers get them, no doubt local authority diversity co-ordinators are planning to get them. And I’ll bet none of them are genuinely ‘paperless’.
Two immediate Google hits on this. Firstly, NHS Tayside:
‘Some of the executive leads who often work across Tayside and who may also represent NHS Tayside on national projects also use the devices. iPads ensure that these members of staff can work more effectively as they are extremely mobile and offer instant access to emails and documents.”
Nice try Tayside. And then their neighbouring health board, NHS Fife:
Fife councillor Andrew Rodger claimed patients who need six incontinence pads a day were only being given four in a bid to save money.
Patients were told they could phone to have more delivered if they ran out, but Mr Rodger said this would prove to be more expensive once the additional delivery costs are taken into account. Now it has emerged the cost-cutting exercise comes after managers spent £16,680 in 2011-12 on 37 tablet computers….Chris Bowring, NHS Fife director of finance and lead for eHealth, said the devices allow nursing teams to access data while visiting patients. A number of programmes, such as medical reference guides, can be downloaded for iPads and iPhones. He said: ”Of the 37 devices we have purchased, 33 are used by our community-based nursing teams. The devices have been chosen for their functionality and mobility, and allow teams to access appropriate information and data easily and securely while visiting patients, without the need to return to the office base.
Of course, how on earth did they cope before? As Jeff Randall calls it: ” institutionalised indulgence: luxuries have become necessities and value for money exists only as a concept“.
The Knife’s solution is simple. Everyone who claims they are going paperless is undoubtedly talking complete bollocks, and should proceed to going jobless ASAP. Almost by definition you won’t notice their absence.