Will the NHS be able to support new systems?

Richard Hayes

Workforce planning manager, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen Hospital

While the NHS is awarding multibillion-pound contracts, agreeing specifications, timeframes and rewards/prohibitions, down at the coal-face success is measured in working products that everyone understands, that do not fall over, are not unduly delayed and provide accurate, clearly presented outputs.

We are soon to be involved in the first of the big-bang applications – the electronic staff record. I believe the fourth attempt to provide a stable solution is currently out to test and the project is 12 months or more behind.

Shall I predict that when the product is finally rolled out, like launching a ship, there will be much cheering, an enormous splash, a great deal of wobbling and, finally, settlement? But what if the trials reveal that the NHS cannot handle traffic with the same instant response we are used to, so producing a head of steam in payroll departments across the UK?

When we should be attending to the required cultural change, human resources departments are engulfed in a national regrading exercise. Then, just when we pause for breath, maybe foundation hospitals, wearied with delays, will pull out, leaving the rest to bear a higher charge until the cost becomes prohibitive and we all sink without trace.

Include utilities failure in business continuity

Debbie Rosario

Managing consultant, Compass Management Consulting

The phone cable fire in Manchester certainly highlighted the importance of business continuity planning (Computer Weekly, 6 April), but what is more worrying is the inadequacy of current continuity measures.

Not viewing business continuity as a dynamic process that requires adaptability, and failing to incorporate critical elements such as risk analysis and business impact analysis into the plan, is the reason this scenario developed.

In January, we released the results of a survey which looked at the business continuity plans of a range of FTSE 100 companies. The survey revealed that, despite 98% of companies having a continuity plan, only 80% included planning for utilities failure. Although 58% of respondents reported suffering a disaster during the past five years, 18% of the disasters were utilities-related and 30% took a week or more to return to normal operation.

Eighty-five per cent of respondents claimed to have carried out a risk assessment, but 45% failed to include utilities. These statistics certainly shed light on why the impact of the fire was so great. It is also important to remember that routing needs to be revisited periodically to ensure that diversity is maintained.

We strongly advise firms to ensure that utilities failure is included in the risk analysis and the continuity plan. Although there is a great deal of emphasis on the heightened terrorist threat and forthcoming events such as the May Day anti-capitalist protest, it is when we take things for granted we end up getting caught out.

Don’t trust surveys – get the truth from users

Paul Shorter

IT manager, Roush Technologies

I cannot see the value of the study on the comparative cost of ownership between Linux and Windows (Computer Weekly, 6 April).

These studies are paid for by companies which are not impartial. The results can be interpreted in any way, to suit any purpose, and all too often they are little more than thinly disguised advertising campaigns.

I find some of the sweeping statements in the results very hard to accept. All the Linux distributors have begun charging “hefty premiums” for technical support? So what? Is Windows support free? After a Windows upgrade, don’t technical staff expect or demand new training?

Another statement that fails to make sense was that Linux costs 25%-50% more in technology support specialists than Windows. Why? Linux is not the “black art” it is often portrayed as. Anyone who can support Windows 2000 Server could support a Linux server.

My company uses Linux for business functions such as web servers and e-mail. We chose it for its low total cost of ownership and its reliability. Anyone considering a move to Linux should ignore the surveys and look at case studies of those who have done it. That’s where the real truth lies.

My project is smarter than your project

Ted Prince

IT projects manager, Hull College

I was interested in your article on Sussex College (Computer Weekly, 30 March). Hull College has a fully gigabit-switched Ethernet core with gigabit fibre links to other areas of the college campus and 30mbps Lan extension service to remote sites. Gigabit Ethernet goes to the desktop.

The college is a Nortel reference site for switched Ethernet. We also have a 2Tbyte DotHill SanII for student and staff data storage linked to three pairs of clustered servers for the delivery of apps, data and e-mail.

The campus was chosen as the European trial site for the Nortel Voice over IP Business Communications Manager call centre equipment two years ago, and all areas of the college are enabled for VoIP quality of service.

We are planning this summer to roll out Windows XP to the majority of our 2, 200 desktops.

The college is a major implementer of UKOnline with 17 learning centres throughout the Hull area all linked back to the college on 30mbps LES. There are 90 networked interactive white boards to aid the learning process. A current project is to install a PC into all teaching rooms for the marking of registers and to facilitate the interactive white boards.

We are investigating the use of Citrix client/server technology to extend the life of current PCs within the college.

Currently we are investigating the possibility of campus-wide wireless technology with Nortel Wireless products.

So, if you are looking for innovation and the use of leading edge technology in the education public sector, look no further.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Reed Business Information Ltd.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group