Probably not, but quickly to explain the title: it is simply that my old boss Mike Bracken has just been announced as government’s new exec digital director. So he has quite a big job on his hands – and as it happens, I was driving back from the docs and trying to solve an annoyance when this was announced so – although I had a bit of an inkling, I did miss the actual announcement. However, that’s beside the point…
Whilst I was missing the big news of the day I was irritated because the doctor’s surgery I belong to finally scraped itself into this Internet era by having a website that *does something*: lets you book your appointments and manage hospital stuff etc etc. However, you have to go into the surgery to get a code in order to go home and then sign up. This code was one of many printed out in advance, and when I asked for it I was just handed it by a mouthingly apologetic secretary who was on the phone.
On my slightly irritated way home I was trying to work out why they had such an annoying system. Surely it’s not really necessary to make people come into the surgery to get this code, especially as they are not doing anything to check that I am a patient when they give me said code. This was the only possible reason I could think of for making people do such a thing.
Then I thought, well actually, they probably didn’t know what they wanted when they commissioned the new shiny website that actually *does* something. Without sounding horribly, horribly -ist, the practice managers are all ladies of a certain age and the docs are so massively busy I doubt they had anything to do with it. I suspect that they told a web company a version of what they wanted and were sold something that would have been acceptable in the 90s.
This lead me to think, perhaps the NHS should centrally design a booking system for all surgeries and roll this out – before quickly remembering my decade in the public sector and realising the enormity and insanity of that proposal.
So instead, would a very clever thing be that the NHS/some government body (er Mike?) instead take the time to write up a requirements doc for a surgery website? This would not cost the earth to produce, could be posted on a central site and whenever a surgery in the UK decides that the time has come to have an online booking service, they simply print off the requirements doc and then they can select their web builders of choice from local talent.
I mean, surely the requirements are always going to be the same? Every surgery has patients, doctors and nurses and a finite number of things that can be achieved online that are common across the piece. Of course, a clever requirements doc would be written so that the site can have plug-ins and widgets that can be addded at very little cost for those occasional anomalies.
This may well create a small slew of businesses who become adept at finding and delivering against these requirements, prices would vary naturally, but would settle at somewhere reasonable, so that businesses can make a little profit and the public purse is not swindled.
Then I thought, I wonder how many other common businesses across government could benefit from this.
It’s one way isn’t it? I can’t see the down side, can you?
PS Mike Bracken’s appointment is extremely good for government people and for the digital dreams of the public sector. I hope you all look after him.