Back door privatisation of the NHS

Margaret Thatcher died recently.   She was exceptional in many ways, I for one took exception to her.   But whatever your opinions of her were, at least you knew where you stood.   Her opinions were controversial at times but they were never hidden.   She said exactly what she meant.

Compare this with what is going on today.   We now have a Conservative prime minister who has stated that it is not their intention to privatise the health service.   He has stated that the Health Service is safe in Tory hands.   But the truth of the matter is very different from the spin.   The NHS is in the process of being dismantled quietly and insidiously.

The past few years has seen an unprecedented transfer of services towards the private sector.   It is happening in the name of the Tory dogma of ‘Opening services up to competition’, this seemingly innocuous phrase hides a lot of changes which are happening behind the scenes, with as little publicity as the government can manage.

Of course services which have been ‘Opened up to competition’ almost never go back to the NHS because once the service as it existed within the NHS has been dismantled the people and expertise have moved elsewhere, the equipment has been sold or recycled, the rooms have either been used for other services or have been rented out to the private company who are now providing the service.

It is very difficult once a service has been privatised to re-instate that service within the NHS and this almost never happens.

The current CON/DEM politicians are very patient, many small steps in their desired direction, each one so small as to be imperceptible to the general public can achieve their objective.   It works like a ratchet.   It is only necessary to ensure that there are no steps in the opposite direction.

It may take many years to achieve their goal, but the Conservatives will keep moving relentlessly towards it privatising the NHS bit by bit until a hospital is just a building within which private companies provide various services and the NHS will exist in name only.

That will be a sad day indeed.

Note Taking Software

I have been taking notes for a long time and I have used a great many note taking programs over the years (before the age of computers I used 5″ x 7″ cards).  I have amassed a large number of notes, some of them static (information), some of them are just stored as a record of past projects (the archive) but many of them constantly being updated.  There are two programs I currently use, one of them is called ‘ConnectedText’.  The other program I am using is called ‘WhizFolders’.  At some point in the future I will only be using one program for note taking but I have yet to decide which one, both of them have different strengths and weaknesses.

Some note taking programs use a hierarchical tree structure for the classification of notes and that approach is useful when the number of notes is relatively small.  If you have a hundred data items, it is reasonably easy to organise them into some sort of a branching tree structure, similar to files organized in folders on a hard disk.  However when you reach five hundred to one thousand notes, it becomes more difficult to find the item you are looking for as many records will belong to several categories.

You may be able to see all the entries belonging to one particular branch of the tree but you won’t easily be able to see a list of items related to a topic spanning many categories.  As the number of notes grows into the thousands (currently I have about five thousand notes) it becomes exponentially harder to isolate a set of notes related by some obscure characteristic.  It is also harder to place notes into the tree structure because you have to choose the most important category from among many possible categories.  Full-text search helps but it will often produce a set of results that is either much too big or too small.  It is particularly difficult to use a text search if you’re looking for a set of related items instead of just one item.

The best solution to this problem is to use ‘tagging’, notes are tagged with a set of keywords describing their salient characteristics.  With tagging you don’t have to decide which is the most significant characteristic of a note you can tag it with all of its characteristics and then it will appear wherever it is appropriate for it to appear.

I would like to say that there was a free and open source note taking program which was as good as any of the commercial programs but unfortunately there isn’t.  There are many free note taking programs but I have not yet found one which is anywhere near as good as some of the commercial offerings.

Over the next few weeks I intend to put up some reviews of the note taking programs I have tried and give my opinions as to the merits of each one so that people might avoid wasting money on programs which are not up to the task.