Are you one of the 200 or so website editors working for NHS organisations that the Department of Health believes to be out there somewhere? If so, you may have mixed feelings about the sudden interest the centre has developed in your activities.
In principle, who could argue with the idea that all web-based public information should be put out under a common nhs. uk domain name, or indeed with the idea that local sites should cover a similar range of information? But it is difficult to believe that the Guidance on providing online public information about local healthcare services issued by the DoH last month will prove any more flexible in practice or adaptable to local circumstance than any previous IT initiative.
Leaving aside the horrors of HISSes, RISPs, Read Codes and the rest, you need only look at the NHS Information Authority's just ever-so-slightly pompous and misleadingly titled Guidelines for e-mail systems. In fact, of course, they have nothing to do with e-mail 'systems' as such since they are merely a short guide to etiquette. And although they take half a dozen introductory paragraphs and nearly 30 bullet points to say so, the gist turns out to be that e-mail users should avoid abusing the e-mail system by sending unnecessary quantities of information to people who don't want it, and avoid abusing other users, full stop.
Still, if nothing else, then the enthusiasm for egovernment that prompted the prime minister to promise that all services that could be delivered online would be by 2005 has forced the DoH to start compiling a central list of NHS websites. It lists 59 health authority sites in its guidance document. All we need now is for the style police to enforce those lovely NHS identity guidelines. Remember - it's blue, black and white throughout, and only use Times and Helvetica as Frutiger and Garamond don't work on many people's printers.