Data collection has larger ramifications in this system of healthcare than it might in a traditional or commerce-based system. Apparently, despite the availability of this healthcare, there have still been segments of people who have fallen into the cracks and have received less care than others, generally in a higher level of income. A study in the 1970's showed up problems in infant mortality, death rates of mothers in childbirth and a deathrate from tuberculosis that was higher than in the 1930's. In addition, this system of healthcare is subject to the economic decisions of the government from year to year, and is currently being cut back in some areas (Dworkin 1997).
The NHS Direct web page, www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk, includes: 1) enquiry page, 2) health encyclopaedia, 3) self-help guide, 4) common health questions, 5) interactive tools, 6) newsletter subscription, 7) directory of physicians and medical practitioners, 8) NHS services link and links in several languages as well as many other helpful links. It also refers people to their phone line which is available 24 hours a day, which is how NHS Direct first started.
In 2005, a newspaper article (Evening Chronicle) stated fears that the Tories would "pull the plug" on Tyneside's call centre if they were elected. The fears were dismissed by the Tories and the Conservatives. The call centre employs about 200 people. The Tories insisted that they rather aim to improve the system. The Tyneside centre was one of the original sites that was begun in 1998. They handle over 30,000 calls a month. Since the system went national, it has handled more than 10 million calls. According to Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley (2005) the Conservatives plan to reconfigure NHS Direct with a more integrated emergency care network that will enable doctors' out-of-hours services, ambulance trusts, walk-in centres and NHSD to be used as is best for each network, and better local service.
The main point of NHS Direct is to reduce hospital queues (Gibson 1999) by giving people access to medical information. The phone operators and nurses in the call centres are trained to diagnose symptoms and offer information on available treatments. "Cyber docs" and "net nurses" online (Gibson 1999) offer health advice after the 'patient' types in their symptoms. They, too, can suggest possible medical treatments, if needed.
The year that NHS Direct was begun, the National Health Service had 50 years of service yet the UK was still behind other European countries in dealing with health issues such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. So in addition to the internet service, NHS Direct also set up "observatories" to monitor facts and figures across the country, called the "White Paper".
Question 2: What contributions can the internet make to effective service operations With reference to S. Ghosh's article "Making business sense of the internet" in the Harvard Business Review of 1998, the same opportunities and threats that traditional businesses face on the internet are also true for a government-run site such as the NHS Direct internet site. Ghosh wrote that setting up a web presence is easy but creating the business model is very difficult (Pandya 1999). Since the inception of the internet, there have been a