Soapbox: working with new IT systems

I am not computer phobic. In fact I have always liked using computers. I use one at home all the time to surf the internet and shop online. So why is it when I get to work all that changes?

It’s not the volume of e-mails, although that is challenging. It’s not the spreadsheets forecasting budget overspends, even if they should depress me. It is the social care databases.

Having worked in different places, I’ve experienced several. And, without exception, using them is soul-destroying.


First, their names make me want to cringe. They usually use some play on speed, premier position or another angle suggesting organised care. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

For some reason, these IT systems always slow everything down. They usually introduce a load of “performance management” stages, which apparently help the bean counters. However, spending more than half my time enslaved to performance statistics takes me away from what I am trained to do and from what my service users need.

Second, the bit I should like about IT systems – the ability to save me time and effort – never seems to come off. I end up having to repeat myself again and again because the system seems unable to cope with any basic pulling-through of information to the next stage of case management.

Winds me up

Third – and this one seriously gets me – I am told the one I now use was designed by social workers. This winds me up on two levels because it means that either these social workers were twisted in the head and incompetent, or they allowed themselves to be pushed around and forced to agree that something useless actually worked.

Fourth, why does every local authority have a different one? It makes it so difficult to hand over information if service users move around the country. This seems daft when we look at the risks some service users pose to others or themselves.

Finally, why are government agencies – and I can’t think of a single exception to this – all so inept at developing IT systems? I know it sounds a bit Big Brother, but surely a police/NHS/social care national IT system could save huge amounts of time and duplication as well as ensure we provide the right services to people as safely as possible?

● The author has asked to remain anonymous

● If you have something to get off your chest, you can e-mail your gripe

This article is published in the 23 July edition of Community Care under the headline “Heading for IT overload”

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