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MTAS: Entering the twilight zone

Patricia Hewitt

After finding that the MTAS system was a complete balls-up and had not only failed in its designed intention to match doctors to jobs but had also spewed applicant’s intimate personal details onto the internet such that they were publicly accessible (see here), it would seem reasonable for Patricia Hewitt to take some action.

Perhaps you might expect that she’d sack the people who design the system. Perhaps she’d resign, and admit that the system she’s introduced was an absolute unmitigated failure. Mad Pat did neither of these.

Instead, she reported Channel 4 News to Ofcom. She hasn’t done anything in terms of getting rid of the company who designed this lamentable system, but has reported the programme which exposed the problem to the broadcast regulator, on the basis that Channel 4 should have reported the problem to the Department of Health more quickly.

Clearly, she thinks that it was absolutely unacceptable that a news programme should take 120 minutes to verify a story before notifying the interested parties, yet spewing junior doctors’ and medical students’ personal data all over the web for anyone to see is merely a minor error.

She said she was sorry ‘to junior doctors or foundation programme applicants who have been caused anxiety or, in some cases, inconvenience as a result’, which is all very nice. But remember, she has broken the law. This is an enormous breach of the Data Protection Act. Saying ‘sorry for causing anxiety’ doesn’t really cut it. If I were to post her intimate details on a website for all to see, would ‘sorry’ be enough?

She also claimed that

There is no evidence that members of the public or other commercial interests, apart from staff at ITN and “Channel 4 News”, accessed the site.

That is an out-and-out lie. There is evidence, and the MTAS project manager has that evidence. And, what’s more, it’s clear from her own speech that it is a lie. She said:

The overwhelming majority of individual accesses before the security breach was closed came from an internet address belonging to ITN, the providers of “Channel 4 News”.

The ‘overwhelming majority’. That means, quite simply, that some of the accesses were not from these internet addresses, but from elsewhere. Therefore, there is evidence that other people accessed the site. She is quite clearly and openly lying to Parliament. If you want to read more of her misguided spiel, check Hansard.

The system has criminally failed, and now she’s lying to cover her own back and kicking off against the people who exposed the flaws.

The Ministerial Code is quite clear about this. Section 1.5.c:

Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister

She surely knows what she has to do.

This post was filed under: Health, News and Comment, Politics.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Mort Karman

    21.52, 02/05/2007

All you well trained British doctors are more then welcome to come to the “under doctored” areas of the United States, Canada, Australia and some other countries. UK doctors are world class as everyone (except perhaps Mad Pat) knows and if your home does not want you we do. I suggest young doctors contact the health ministries in all the Canadian provinces. I know of some great places which are offering all kinds of incentives to have good doctors (actually even bad doctors) go there. Australia is offering similar deals and it too is a great place to live. In the US there are openings at most of the “knife and gun club” hospitals in the big inner cities, but I would not suggest you go there. There are many rural areas which are really nice through and are offering incentive to doctors. Contact the various states. I know some very nice parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana really need doctors and are dream areas to live in. I hate to raid the UK as I know there are more then enough ill people who need you there. But if Mad Pat and the government don’t want you. Go someplace you will be wanted, needed and appreciated and also have a good lifestyle for yourselves and your families.

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