back to article Excel recruitment time bomb makes top trainee doctors 'unappointable'

Computer errors, bad technology choices, and flawed processes have disrupted the recruitment of trainee anesthetists in England and Wales. In autumn 2021, candidates seeking their third-level specialist training position (ST3) were looking forward to hearing where they would end up in one of the NHS's most sought-after medical …

  1. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Excel for dodgy databases

    Excel is a wonderful tool for a knowledgeable user. But it is a disaster when clerical staff are expected to use it directly from their keyboards.

    At the very least there should be an Access screen, or equivalent, which will do some checking on what is typed in. Excel sheets should be in the background, after being professionally designed and at least with data-types to distinguish dates, numbers, and text.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        and spreadsheets are essentially a Linked List.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Excel for dodgy databases

      Once you start involving professional design, data types, etc Is the spreadhseet even needed. Just design and build a real application to do the job.

      1. Lurko

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        There's many excellent use-cases for spreadhseets that sit at a level where creating an application is too expensive, slow and cumbersome. The point about professional steering simply means somebody competent designs it and then locks it down so it can't be fudged up by inexpert changes...and the owning professional knows what the limits of speadsheets are.

        Excel does have field validation, but it's a bit crude compared to what we'd do in a purpose build application.

        It would seem in this case that the regions didn't have a standard template, or were allowed to mess the format around, either of which would be easy fixes. Mind you problems in junior doctor recruitment and training - what's new? The who system is a fragmented poorly planned (or unplanned) fiasco overseen by a government that doesn't understand, doesn't care, doesn't plan, and doesn't think. And the same is true of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition, who could have fixed exactly the same problems in their 13 years in power, but didn't.

        1. PRR Bronze badge

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          > excellent use-cases for spreadsheets that sit at a level where creating an application is too expensive, slow and cumbersome

          OK, but what we got? A hundred gassers who will be hired at >$100k/year for at least 10 years? That's a hundred million bucks.

          Plus thousands of patients turned-away (or knocked-out with domestic rum).

          At that level of consequences a reasonable person could even hire a FORTRAN wizard and get it done right.

          Yes, I deal with medical administrators and know the futility.

          1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            OK, but what we got? A hundred gassers who will be hired at >$100k/year for at least 10 years?

            A couple of years at ST3 on £55k.

          2. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            Domestic rum? Boy, you need professional rum, weapons grade, the real sinsemilla.

          3. Bebu Silver badge
            Windows

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            hire a FORTRAN wizard and get it done right.

            I know even Dartmouth BASIC in the hands 15 year old student could do better than this spreadsheet FU. (I admit nothing... :)

            When I first saw VisiCalc I knew it was it was a bloody silly idea - like giving razor blades to toddlers - definitely going to end in tears. Lotus just confirmed this and Excel with bells.

            As far as I could see the main attraction was the grid layout for the output (and input). For me it made more sense to construct your model in some declarative notation which could be easily audited. Attaching a view and controller to the model wouldn't normally undermine the validity of the model.

            At the time I reckoned I could do better with SmallTalk-80 - not that I had the hardware or the USD2k for the ST-80. :(

            1. PRR Bronze badge

              Re: Excel for dodgy databases

              > main attraction was the grid layout for the output (and input). For me it made more sense to construct your model in some declarative notation which could be easily audited.

              When I knew little about (CP/M) Visicalc, and even less about office processes, I found my boss with a huge cross-ruled pad doing budget. I blurted "that's a spreadsheet!". She knew that, and was not too interested that a computer could do it too.

              When spreadsheets were done by hand, they were semi-self-auditing. You knew what you were adding-up and were dissuaded from over-large summations because error rate went way up. As we all know the computer will do vast quantities of any dumb thing it thought you told it to do (rather what you did not understand what you were asking).

              But that grid was well-established in manual budgeting and planning.

        2. Matthew Elvey

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          The security breach at TD I uncovered brought to light that they were managing per-customer information in Excel. For ~6.4 MILLION customers.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            This doesn't surprise me in the slightest

            One of the co-directors of my IT company insisted on bringing in an excel-based accounting system used at his other job - a regional hospital and health authority (because he could just use it and haul in "programmers" to fix things)

            It was so byzantine that tax department inspectors gave up on auditing it and when I gave up on it, took a backdoor route, paid for quickbooks ("too expensive!") I found that not only were there substantial accounting discrepencies in play, we'd unknowingly been trading insolvent for about 18 months and barely breaking for 5 years before that, despite his assertions that the company was doing well

            1. Abominator

              Re: Excel for dodgy databases

              Jesus fucking christ. What a monkey that guy must have been.

              1. teebie

                Re: Excel for dodgy databases

                Monkey like a fox. He got away with trading while insolvent for a year and a half.

          2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            Wait YOU'RE Elvey v Ameritrade?

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        This was what I was thinking when I read this. It sounds like an ad hoc procedure that someone in a selection panel has bodged up to help them to do do their job, that has been helpfully passed along to their colleagues elsewhere. Maybe even the master spreadsheet was an afterthought.

        1. Snake Silver badge

          Re: ad hoc and afterthoughts

          THIS is where ANRO screwed up. Excel could have been a very acceptable choice for this usage but ANRO allowed every recruitment region to create their own Excel forms, which were then submitted to ANRO for integration. Why didn't ANRO create a specific form to be distributed to each region, seeing that ANRO would need to [properly] handle the returned results of said forms??

          It was a major screwup in that ANRO delegated each region to create its own solution. This is where ANRO's leadership made their mistake - they weren't leading. They were delegating without committing to (their) responsibility of oversight.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        Why? Excel's a great tool for this sort of job. If it had been handled properly, and "involving data types" means choosing from a drop-down box.

        I have used a great many "professionally designed" tools that cost a huge amount of money, had nightmarish UI issues, and mostly existed to lock the customer into using that supplier's products from here to doomsday. Many of them could have been a spreadsheet if there was someone competent building it in Excel. Maybe Access.

        The other great thing with Excel is it shows its working, so this sort of thing can be found.

        The problem in this instance was the lack of a standard, agreed input- long before the software even got involved.

        1. seldom

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          It's great for presenting data, BUT it's a terrible idea to use it to store data. Just do not do it.

    3. jmch Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Excel for dodgy databases

      "Excel is a wonderful tool for a knowledgeable user."

      - Excel's power requires quite some training and a LOT of experience and failures to properly master.

      - Excel's basic design means that potential issues scale polynomially with size and exponentially with complexity. Anything more complex than standard rows/columns is a bugger to debug, and any sheet doing anything at all complex is a nightmare to debug (or even to realise that something is wrong)

      - Excel's basic simplicity and ubiquity mean that anyone who has ever used it thinks they're a master at it.

      All the above combined are a recipe for trouble

      1. brett_x

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        I'd add that you also have to be good at debugging or have an incredible QA analyst/team. You can't just look at a few rows to validate that everything works as expected. Like "regular" software QA, you need to dig deep and find every way something could go wrong.

        1. JimCr

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          I'm a software QA analyst, and one time I was avoiding working too hard, so I decided to poke around the budget spreadsheet my manager had sent to the directors... I found a couple incorrect formulas that inflated the project cost by a quarter million. She laughed it away, but I was shocked this was one step away from being rubber stamped and signed off.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            Dare I suggest that it was rueful laughter because you’d discovered her cunningly hidden slush-fund/overrun padding?

            ie the Scotty approach: “I always tell you a repair will take three times as long as I know it will… how else can I maintain my reputation as a miracle worker?”

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            Accidental or not?

            Impossible to tell. The perfect crime.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            How many weeks after were you fired for something unrelated?

            1. JimCr

              Re: Excel for dodgy databases

              On the nose actually. She got really hostile and I ended up quitting. I doubt it helped that I'd replied-all to the email chain detailing my find.

          4. Handlebars

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            I found a university truncating test scores in Excel instead of rounding them per their own grading rules. In boundary cases this was lowering students' final degree classifications.

          5. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            "I found a couple incorrect formulas that inflated the project cost by a quarter million"

            Which means there's that much padding in the outcome and people get congratulated for coming in on time and under budget

            It's vastly worse when they give a figure that's wrong in the other direction

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        "Anything more complex than standard rows/columns is a bugger to debug, and any sheet doing anything at all complex is a nightmare to debug (or even to realise that something is wrong)"

        If Excel formulas allowed whitespace and comments, life would be so much better, IMHO. Is rather debug someone else's PERL script than try to make sense of any reasonably complex Excel formula.

    4. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Excel for dodgy databases

      Excel is a wonderful tool for a knowledgeable user

      Assembler is a wonderful tool for knowledgable programmers, but there's a reason we use high level languages for most things.

    5. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Excel for dodgy databases

      Now you did it! You mentioned the name of the redheaded stepchild of the Office family. Access is a very misunderstood, and underutilized tool. Now, we get people who just try to shoehorn everything into Excel, which is even worse than some of the abuses of Access we saw back in the day.

      If SAP could interface with Access, so I could export SAP reports directly into an Access table for additional manipulation... the amount of stress in my life would probably go down by double digits overnight. Working at a place still in the early stages of an SAP migration. Part of the reason for the migration was supposed to be to impose some discipline on how the company operates. Well, now it's apparently too difficult for them to define materials for a specific plant or storage location, so they just want everything everywhere. I've already run into cases where an SAP report exceeds the ~1m row limit in Excel. All the nice reporting tools in SAP are now rendered basically useless. But, of course, even if Access could easily interface with SAP, my manager seems to be one of the people who are adamant anti-Access for anything people.

      1. usbac Silver badge

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        Access is a complete joke of a database. I've spent many years working as a part time DBA, and Access is the only database system I've ever used where you can run the same query on the same set of data three times in a row, and get different results each time.

        I used to say to people when asked why this or that was not working in Access: "Ah, Access, the random results generator from Microsoft..."

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          It's not really meant to be a "serious" database like SQL Server or Oracle or even MySQL. It has a couple use cases, where it works very well.

          1: Prototyping the layout of a database before implementing anything in a "serious" DB

          2: Creating simple user-facing data collection apps where first, or maybe second, normal form is all you really need, with no foreign keys or any other fancy stuff

          3: Creating a front-end to a "serious" DB

          As long as you go in with your expectations appropriately set, it's a useful tool. I wouldn't ever suggest someone try to run even a sole proprietorship business off an Access database, but say you need to collect info to create a new customer record in SAP, or maybe you want to make a front end to a MySQL database so a part-time worker can use GUI controls they're familiar with instead of writing a bunch of SQL statements. An Access app could be useful for those scenarios.

          1. usbac Silver badge

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            The big problem I had at my previous employer was all the company execs thinking it was a serious tool. They were using it for things like financial reporting, business forecasting, and product life cycle management. There was no stopping them. You would have to pry that piece of crap out of their cold, dead hands.

            Our CFO at one point had an Access database that ran major financial functions. This thing had four macros that each ran 30+ queries, and another macro that ran the four macros. Guess who was often tasked with debugging that nightmare?

            I kept threatening to disable the execution of Access through group policy.

            1. aerogems Silver badge

              Re: Excel for dodgy databases

              That's a very different scenario from the conclusion you were trying to direct people to in your earlier post. If you have some unholy mess of macros, doing who knows what to the data, before it is presented to the user... that's a far cry from trying to make people think that, using the stock functionality, you would get different results querying the same data.

              I'm very much a centrist on Access. It's very true that it's horrible as a database of any significant scale, and it's true that plenty of people abuse it. However, it's also true that it has some very legitimate and useful use cases. Like any tool it can be abused. I can chase you around with a hammer, threatening to break your fingers one by one. That, however, doesn't impact the hammer's utility for hammering nails. You had a management problem, not an Access problem. Identifying the problem is the crucial first step in formulating an effective solution.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            that's 3 stupid use cases

            1. use the test server of the Db system you are going to use, stop wasting time fucking with a shit simulation of a db

            2. just wtf would use that shit?

            3. really fucking stupid

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          Interesting. ACCESS and complex databases are outside my skill set. So when we needed to have my simple flat form database ( the kind you got on the front of a magazine in the '90s) made professional (not big or complex by commercial standards- maybe a handful of tables) so that it could produce reports to the higher ups we got someone in to build a proper grown up database. He used ACCESS. It never produced reliable information. They weren't complex queries. How many students we have, analysed by age/gender/originating school/which team and teacher they were assigned to and start/end dates.

          It never f****ing balanced. Every child had every field filled. We looked for that manually it was only a couple of hundred kids, so by any reasonable logic if you added up the totals for each group in any given data type (e.g. gender) it should equal 100% of students

          When I left it had been in progress for about two years. We could pull the detail of individual kids off it, perfectly. Or indeed list all the kids in any given data type. None were ever missing. But the numbers never came out right when we ran a full report

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            Sounds like the programmer was the problem. Like any database reliable results depend on appropriate design, handling nulls and Nas carefully and testing queries carefully, but it isn't intrinsically arithmetically challenged. The main reason for not using Access is its abysmal reliability on random bits of dll that get mangled by your next IE update or by a black cat walking under a ladder.

          2. fajensen

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            It is a long time since I used ACCESS, but, I think it has a similar behaviour to Excel: It doesn't care much about what kind of data actually gets stored in which row. One can have things that presents as numbers but they are chars, bytes or even nulls, depending on the context and how the tables were once defined.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          Joke or not, it's still vastly better (and safer, and gives more reliable answers) than doing anything complex on Excel

      2. The Basis of everything is...
        Unhappy

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        There's ODBC drivers for all the SAP databases, assuming you're allowed to connect directly (and don't risk the hellfire of indirect access licences). Otherwise it is possible to connect to SAP application servers using RFC calls via VBA and bits of SAPGUI (says google) to get at the higher level data constructs. Having a friendly ABAPer around would probably help along with a supply of bananas and fiddle toys to keep them contented. Or was that for librarians?

        Quite why you're having to muck about in Access when you're migrating to SAP is another question - and one that does not bode well. I feel your pain and frequently dispair at the repeated mistakes of this industry.

        1. aerogems Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Excel for dodgy databases

          We are running one of the cloudy versions of SAP, so the entire instance is running in a VM on some SAP managed system. It'd just be nice if there was an option to export to Access, like sometimes you have options to export to Word or Excel. Then the people who want what I call the "Perfect Pretty Report" it'd be a bit easier. You know the report.. The person doesn't really know what exactly they want, but they want it all on a single report, which they'll probably never really look at. And since the tables in SAP are now polluted with all this extra data -- because the responsible (and I use that only in the sense of it being their job) department heads can't be bothered to actually decide which plant(s) and storage locations things should be in, so they just put everything everywhere -- a lot of the better reporting tools like SQVI are effectively useless to me now. Access would at least make it a little easier to do frakenreports by stitching together table dumps. Instead of a series of xlookup functions on Excel, I could just create a query and report in Access from those table dumps.

          I'm sure it's a pipe dream, but just once, I'd like to work at a place where they actually did the SAP setup correctly. Where I'm at now, I swear they should just scrap everything they have now and start over with all the lessons learned. It is just such a complete mess you know the consulting company isn't going to be using it as a testimonial. I'm betting there's already some lawsuits being drafted to get some of the money back, but I digress. Point is, I'm stuck trying to cobble together "creative" solutions to problems that shouldn't exist in the first place. Yay me!

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            > I'm sure it's a pipe dream, but just once, I'd like to work at a place where they actually did the SAP setup correctly.

            It is Friday now; in a just a few more hours you can sit down with one (or two) of these. Sounds like you'll need it.

            1. aerogems Silver badge

              Re: Excel for dodgy databases

              I don't actually drink, but not for the lack of SAP going above and beyond to give me ample reason to take it up over the years. Even back in my late teens and early 20s, the one or two times I'd indulge I'd get hung over for multiple days, so I don't even want to think about what it'd be like a couple decades later.

          2. fajensen
            Angel

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            I'm sure it's a pipe dream, but just once, I'd like to work at a place where they actually did the SAP setup correctly.

            The Gulfs have seen your light and they have created a Path for your acension, IOW: You would do a lot better, financially and emotionally, by joining the opposition and start working as a SAP consultant :p

          3. seldom

            Re: Excel for dodgy databases

            SAP is not designed to migrate correctly.

            The consultants would lose millions. After our botched migration most of the people involved left the company and are now working for SAP or the consultants that helped us through the (trivial) process changes.

      3. Colin Bull 1
        Happy

        Tools for the job

        Sounds to me like it would be easy to write a SAP report that could be mangled with AWK or sed ( or even Perl for the newbies) and input into anything. I think there is a term for it, ETL. Extract Transform Load.

      4. seldom

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        SAP speak:

        All your data is in silos if it's not in SAP (Even if you can access it from almost any interface known, ever)

        If your data is in SAP anyone can access it at all times.

        Unless they are not using SAP.

        It's not a silo it's SAP

    6. munnoch Bronze badge

      Re: Excel for dodgy databases

      I'm sure the could get some Oracle or SAP consultants in to design an 'application' for them.

    7. Jun-jun

      Re: Excel for dodgy databases

      This Interview Score process doesn't appear to be overly complex!

      A skilled Access developer - capable of designing an proper database structure - should be to finish this application within 3-4 weeks.

      1. fajensen
        Pint

        Re: Excel for dodgy databases

        Hahahaha - The way these jobs actually goes is that "Management" and different "stakeholder" comitees will prove their importance by interfering every 1-2 weeks so The Project never finishes until the budget runs out. The skilled developer will be delivering 3 months of incomplete work, in about 14 months of project time, then "Management" and "stakeholder" comittees will agree that, "that guy was not very good at all", and then they will give the job to Boss's nephew who can do something in Excel.

        I am just wrapping up a job like that!

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

    Also from a chronic shortage of people even minimally competent in IT at all levels, including centralised decision making.

    In our area, all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal, and all the practice web sites appear to use the same template, seemingly devised by the NHS centrally. The snag is that booking an appointment is very hard because there is no clear indication on the web sites of how to access the portal. My GP stated (when eventually contacted with difficulty by phone) that they "would show me" how to access the booking portal. The assumption of course being that a patient in need of potentially urgent care or in pain would still remember what they had been shown maybe months or more earlier.

    I used to think that a key attribute of interactive IT was that it should be intuitive to use but apparently I was wrong, even where the implications of failure might be life critical.

    1. Mike 125

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      > I used to think that a key attribute of interactive IT was that it should be intuitive to use but apparently I was wrong, even where the implications of failure might be life critical.

      I used to think that a key attribute of a national health system was to allow me to occasionally... you know, see and talk to, like, an actual doctor. But apparently I was wrong, even where the implications of failure might be life critical.

      1. Andy Non Silver badge

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        "see and talk to, like, an actual doctor"

        I was on a waiting list (a couple of months hence) to see a cardiologist at my local hospital. Feeling quite unwell one day I phoned my local doctor's surgery but couldn't even get past the not-medically-trained rottweilers manning the reception desk. "No, you can't make an appointment to see your GP, you've got to wait for your hospital cardiologist appointment". A few days later feeling very unwell I went to A&E where they stuck me on monitors and told me I was too ill to go home and needed to have a pacemaker fitted as soon as possible. Turned out my pulse kept dropping into the 40's, 30's and my heart was even periodically stopping completely for a few seconds and I was in imminent danger of a heart attack, stroke or death!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          Rotweillers notwithstanding, going straight to A&E is the appropriate measure. The ECG & biochemistry diagnostics are not likely to be within your GP's capabilities. SWMBO was in a similar situation last year. I took here straight to A&E who transferred her the same night to the cardiac ward at the other hospital in the trust. They got her in for a heart valve replacement ASAP.

          1. Andy Non Silver badge

            Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

            Agreed, sometimes it is best just to go straight to A&E rather than try to get a GP appointment. If I'd listened to the Rottweilers and waited for my cardiologist appointment I very likely wouldn't be alive to make these posts now. It is unfortunate though that there are medically untrained personnel (the Rottweilers) effectively making life and death decisions with their actions and instructions to patients, probably unaware of the severe consequences of what they say/do.

            1. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge

              Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

              You can't even talk to the Rottweilers without listening to the voice on hold telling you, "If this is an emergency, dial 000 and ask for an ambulance, or proceed to your nearest emergency department."

              So then you have the paradox of the underinformed and sometimes misinformed, seeking information, being told to use their own judgement about whether or not what is happening to them is an emergency.

              Speaking as one who runs an ED and fields the phone calls to hospitals, I get very used to saying "I can't tell how serious things are over the phone, so if you're worried come in and we'll check it out."

              If they're worried enough to call, it deserves at least that much careful consideration. It can take some time and effort to work out if it is an emergency or not, even once you get to see a doctor. Trying to explain the 4-hour waiting times is a whole other story.

              1. VicMortimer Silver badge

                Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

                Only 4 hour wait times at the ER? Must be nice.

                If you don't go in via ambulance here, wait times are frequently more like 10 hours these days. And if you've guessed wrong and go in when it wasn't an emergency insurance may decide not to cover you. Better hope the ambulance is in-network.

                (At least I can get in to see my primary care doctor while I'm waitlisted for a specialist, they don't care about that. Of course, that was a 2 day wait 4 years ago, it's now about 2 weeks.)

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

                  "ER" "insurance", "in-network" all suggest you're not talking about the NHS.

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      Also from a chronic shortage of people even minimally competent in IT at all levels, including centralised decision making.

      There is no shortage of competent IT people. The issue is that they don't want to work for peanuts.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        "There is no shortage of competent IT people. The issue is that they don't want to work for peanuts."

        But they (and many others) expect junior doctors to do so.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          "But [competent IT people] (and many others) expect junior doctors to [work for peanuts]."

          Hang on, that's extremely unfair. The only people who expect junior doctors to work for peanuts are cheapskate moneygrabbing (and probably corrupt) Con MPs, deliberately trying to make our NHS worse. Most, if not all, workers think that everyone should be able to earn a fair wage for fair work.

          That's why workers in so many different job types, organisations and industries have been on strike during the past couple of years for fair (and liveable) pay for hard-working people (many many more people than in the usually far too placid "mustn't grumble" UK, as increasing numbers of workers really are struggling to make ends meet, let alone try to afford spiralling rents or the increasingly difficult possibility of home ownership).

          A "divide and conquer" attitude does none of us ordinary people any favours whatsoever: we all deserve to be paid adequately and fairly, and all of us should support each other's efforts to achieve such.

          (Note that I did say "fair wage": there do seem to be some unions which seem to take a bit of an "all of the cake, and then some" stance, which is rather unreasonable. At the end of the day costs do have to be paid by customers/service consumers/taxpayers, who are often also struggling to make ends meet, and overly-excessive demands don't really help everyone else. Of course, the nowadays increasingly obscene "reward packages" of supposedly "top level" staff definitely need to be addressed, to ensure a much fairer distribution of wealth among everyone and to reduce this particular problem in the first place.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

            Until we get the CEO pay problem resolved (pay them a lot less or grind them up for pet food, I don't care) then it's absolutely unreasonable to ask unions not to demand FAR higher wages.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

            Irrespective of the party governments, when they get scared by inflation, try to suppress wage increases. The only wages they can directly affect are those in the public sector so the public sector, all of it, gets hammered whoever is in power.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        No, they can't *afford* to work for peanuts.

        I've just seen seasonal staff at Asda being advertised paying more than my last NHS IT job.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        That, and the toxicity of manglement structures causing burnout (not just IT staff - NHS medical staff are even more badly affected)

        As mentioned upthread, the "new NHS portal" is a shining example of "how not to do things" and a big step backwards over the previous ones used (like SystemOne, which was awful, but the NHS one has taken it to new depths)

    3. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal"

      "all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal"

      This is clearly discriminatory against the old, or other people who do not use the Internet. Especially given that the cohort when ringing are not liable to be in the best of health and able to deal with online forms.

      This from an organisation that should know better!

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: "all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal"

        An online portal is an improvement over a telephone service, when you are deaf...

        Whilst services such as Relay UK do exist, many are unaware and refuse to talk (via Relay UK or a BSL interpreter until they have spoken directly to the deaf person and got their spoken consent …

      2. sgj100

        Re: "all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal"

        The statement "this is clearly discriminatory against the old" is itself discriminatory. My 91 old father has no problems booking GP and hospital appointments online.

      3. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: "all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal"

        Also, people with poor local infrastructure, a crap ISP, or unable to afford the fee, or has had their power cut off,or anyone unfortunate enough to get sick when there's an outage from a (maybe normally reliable) ISP.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal"

        "This is clearly discriminatory against the old, or other people who do not use the Internet"

        Even if you DO use the Internet, if you're blind it's utterly unisable - and the amount of 3rd party javascript gives pause for thought

        The ICO really needs to have a dedicated team for GDPR-breaching public/large utility websites

    4. Bitsminer Silver badge

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      I used to think that a key attribute of interactive IT was that it should be intuitive to use but apparently I was wrong, even where the implications of failure might be life critical.

      Oh you sweet summer child.... I know a story about a crow...

      The necessity of a proper User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) is never appreciated by people that like to pretend they know what they are doing, especially if they are non-IT specialists.

      There are so many examples. A classic is the Hawaii missile-alert false alarm. Another is the $500M that Citibank lost due to a mis-selection on a web form.

      And for my final example: Right-click a file on Windows Explorer. Why is "Rename" so damn close to "Delete"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        > Right-click a file on Windows Explorer. Why is "Rename" so damn close to "Delete"?

        Oi! Our data recovery cartel paid good money to Microsoft[1] to arrange the menu like that!

        Call 555-ITJUSTVANISHED

        [1] "Bux Buys UX"

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        The only problem is that delete has to be next to something. Which menu item is sufficiently rare that it's a safe buffer for delete?

        Also, on my Windows 11 installation, delete is now next to share, and since I rarely use that, maybe they now have the requested buffer. Then again, I don't like the new context menu in Windows 11 and typically go to the more options menu where they've hidden the original one. The original one still has delete next to rename as well as my custom menu items.

        1. robinsonb5

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          It'd be easy enough to put a dividing line both above and below delete for safety. I'm not 100% sure it's necessary though, given that you can just slow-double-click an icon to initiate rename.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

            Single click and hitting <F2> works as well for renaming, single click and hitting <delete> works as well for deleting. And the buffer between <F2> and <delete> is large enough, at least on my keyboard.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          I never seem to have the problem with the RISC OS filer, and Delete is next to Rename there as well.

          A few seconds fiddling around has shown the answer.

          On Windows you do:

          Menu -> select Delete

          Menu -> select Rename -> new dialogue.

          On RISC OS you do:

          Menu -> point to menu item -> follow arrow -> select Delete

          Menu -> point to menu item -> follow arrow -> point to Rename -> FOLLOW ANOTHER ARROW! into dialogue

          Windows falls down as both Rename and Delete are 'click on menu item' actions.

          RISC OS wins as Rename and Delete are different physical actions. Delete is a 'click on item' action, Rename is a *not* 'click on item' action. At NO point do you *click* on something in order to rename an object, until *AFTER* the Rename dialogue has been completed.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          On some menus I've seen it given a blank space either side...

      3. KarMann Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        There are so many examples. A classic is the Hawaii missile-alert false alarm.

        Actually, I missed the follow-up myself until it was linked to in the recent FEMA alert test article, but it turns out it (probably) wasn't the UI at all. Probably more of missing the 'this is a drill' parts, but noticing the 'this is not a drill' parts that followed. And so, apparently someone actually thought it was boom time.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          "more of missing the 'this is a drill' parts, but noticing the 'this is not a drill' parts that followed"

          How hard is it to have a transparent overlay saying "this is a drill" ?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      "In our area, all GP practices have changed to appointment booking solely via an online portal,"

      Consider yourself lucky. I relocated last year, and most GPs in both my old and new area use the NHS website and app, but don't allow making appointments online. Instead, I have to call the surgery, where I first have to listen to a long-winded automated sermon explaining things I already know or which are completely irrelevant for me, before letting me select the reason for my call so that I can then hang in a waiting line for 10-15min on good days until it's finally my turn.

      And of course they can only make appointments for the current week, for the week after I'd have to call back the following Monday at 8:30am. Because that's when that week's appointments become available. Call after 9:00am and most of the appointments for that week are gone.

      I asked why I can't just book online and have been told that they don't want people to book appointment without approval of the front desk staff, so everyone has to call. They only use the online facility to allow requesting repeat prescriptions. When I then dared to ask that I'd also like to see my medical records in the app they looked at me as if I asked them for the launch codes to the UK's nuclear deterrent.

      I get that many older folks prefer to call but not everyone is a technophobe geriatric. You'd be surprised how many older folks are online these days. Clearly, none of them works in the NHS.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        We older folk created the ****ing technology in the first place!

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

          Some of you did. Some others of you refused to use it until they had no other choice, and some others loudly complained about it. I may not have been around for most of that, but I have the internet and it has a lot of examples. Just because some currently old people were instrumental to the design of technology doesn't mean that every old person knows how to use it. I'm fully confident that nearly all of them could learn to do so, but I'm less confident that all who could learn will.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

        Consider yourself lucky. I relocated last year, and most GPs in both my old and new area use the NHS website and app, but don't allow making appointments online. Instead, I have to call the surgery

        Luxury!

        Where I am you can only book an appointment for the same day.

        This is achieved by several hundred people ringing the surgery at exactly 08:00 for an appointment raffle .

        Its pretty similar to trying to get a glastonbury ticket.

    6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      Yeah gods, the online booking systems sucks so much it blows.

      When I first used the online system, I'd been working in NHS IT and actually installed the IT equipment in my local surgery. So I took the opportunity to get my patient login details, went home and confidently went online. I selected 'Sign in', and entered my details. Invalid user or password! Tried again. Same result. Went back to surgery and asked for updated logon details.

      Went home again. Went to website, selected 'Sign in'.... same result. Argh!!!! WTF's happening? Went back to surgery, explained carefully the problems, and asked for updated logon details.

      Now, so far this has spread over about six weeks trying to do this. So, again I go to website and try to log on. STILL DOESN'T ***** WORK!!!!

      Frustrated, I started just randomly navigating around the site to see what I could find without logging in. I can't remember the details, but somewhere I selected something and it asked for my logon details. Which I entered. Which worked. WTF? Ok, great, I can check my immunation record. yay!

      At some point I went back to the home page and the 'Sign in' link was still there. Odd, shouldn't it say 'Sign out' now that I'm logged in. I selected it. It asked for my logon details. Odd. Went backwards to the immunation record and refreshed the page. Yeah, I'm still logged in. Went back to the Sign In page. Yep, still asking me to log in, even though I am logged in.

      On a thought I looked at the page source. It was processing a login to nhs.net. ie, the STAFF LOGON service. WHAT the BLEEDING F????

      So, the most prominant and only visible 'Sign in' option on the website is the ****ING STAFF LOGON PORTAL?!?!!!!????!!!?? The website that patients are directed to to 'log on to access their online details'.

      Somebody please go to NHS IT with a clue-by-four and apply to the guilty parties.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge
        Coat

        Re:-“sucks so much it blows”

        “Suck Samantha, suck! Blow is merely a figure of speech!”

    7. Handlebars

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      In my area all GP practices get their websites from a handful of full service design and host companies, and all appointment booking is via epr suppliers' software. Most things at scale in the public sector are fuckedup by private sector suppliers with only the smaller projects like tfa being fuckedup in-house.

    8. Nifty Silver badge

      Re: "The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists"

      "the booking portal"

      The portal was meant to replicate a GP reception. Working as designed.

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Excel

    That's how you Excel at your job.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Excel

      A real shame they didn't call it "Major Fuck Up Waiting to Happen".

      Another thing to blame on marketing.

      1. aerogems Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Excel

        Maybe it should be renamed "Ex-Cell"

    2. Dave559 Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Excel

      They really knocked themselves out with this one!

  4. Tron Silver badge

    The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

    Fixing it is not an option any more. The process now is the downgrading of public expectations: Over the counter medication, online advice from wherever and living with ill health.

    The Tories broke the UK. There is no going back. I guess the 'sunlit uplands' are not as sunny as the spivs promised.

    I imagine there will be a lot of skilled Welsh anesthetists working in what used to be the dominions next year. As a career, it is a good escape route. Luckily for folks on here, Tech is too.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

      It's got damn-all to do with the Tories, or with Labour, this is pure NHS management fuckup. From the RCoA's own website:

      " ANRO sits within NHS England and is the responsible organisation for overseeing the whole of the national recruitment process ...They manage the policy and procedural formalities from job advert to job offer. ANRO liaise with local education offices and recruitment leads to coordinate and deliver recruitment.

      The Medical and Dental Recruitment Selection section of NHSE oversee all of specialty recruitment and represent the 4 statutory education bodies (4 nations). They ensure the standards in delivery of recruitment across all specialities are equitable and fair. They have representation from the BMA junior doctor representatives, the General Medical Council, National Institute for Health Research, Royal College recruitment representatives and Academy of Medical Royal Colleges representatives.". No sign of a government minister of any stripe in there.

      1. Lurko

        Re: The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

        Nothing to do with government? NHSE is in turmoil caused by the mashing, mixing and shredding of NHS Digital and PHE into NHSE, with ludicrous targets to shred headcount that are specifically down to political actions, kicked off in a fit of pique by that despicable maggot Hancock. And that programme has been continued by the revolving door of clueless mediocrities who have followed.

        Anybody who knows anything from NHSD, PHE, and NHSE has (like my other half) taken to opportunity to bail out with a golden parachute, leaving the festering mess of organisational chaos behind. And when I say festering mess, imagine the toilet of a National Express coach arriving at Glasgow from London, where the bog has been blocked since the top of the Edgware Road, and it's a swilling mass of piddle, bog roll, and Hancocks.

        It's common to blame an excess of management for all these things, and that's garbage - the main problem is that under political control, the NHS has a massive deficit of managers, with proportionately about a third the number of the economy at large (Source: The Kings Fund).

        So yes, it's bloody politicians to blame.

      2. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

        Politicians of either colour have been fire-hosing money at the NHS for years. The NHS management then swing from their tyres and smear their poop over the walls, throwing bundles of cash randomly around as they do it.

        The inevitable “crisis in the NHS” headlines then appear, and everyone blames the politicians. Rinse, repeat.

        Anyone seen or heard from Amanda Pritchard lately, the alleged head of NHS England who is paid a vast salary to ensure that the buck stops with her?

      3. Dante Alighieri

        Re: The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

        NHS England is a government body

        GMC is a government QUANGO - it s not a professional body - it is a regulator controlled by the government

        AoMRC is run by those awaiting an honour (CBE/Knighthood etc)

        RCoA is an independent body and nothing to do with the NHS. It deals with anaesthetists who work IN the NHS.

        It fucked up

        Almost as badly as the COVID excel shit.

        Not my College (RCR)

        And I am geek/nerd enough to do a decent job with excel.

        And currently managing better SQL searches on local productivity than the flailing efforts of medical management.

    2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

      The Tories broke the UK

      If you think things are bad now, you should read up about the Anarchy. (Or maybe the Thirty Years War.)

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: The UK can no longer afford nor staff a viable health service.

      If it can't afford to run a viable government operated health serrvice it sure as hell can't afford to run a privatised one where the emphasis is on PROFIT, not health

      There's a reason the NHS was created - the USA model was what prevailed pre WW2, followed by "charities" operating healthcare systems which weren't much better

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "ANRO decided to honor the 10 job offers it had made by mistake and used Oriel to tell the candidates. Unfortunately, a system error in Oriel meant it then erroneously sent that communication to an additional 16 candidates. ANRO decided to honor these 16 additional offers too"

    WTF. So, next time you're on the slab you could be under the the care of someone who didn't, er, make the cut, so to speak.

    1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

      "What do you call the person who graduated their medical degree with the lowest score.. Doctor"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Quite funny, but there are many excellent medical students that want to work as GP's.

        My daughter was in the top few percent in her year and has gained top placements each time, but she is adamant that GP is the role for her - despite the sh1t GPs get because they have to deal with patients for far too long as secondary care is unable to deal with them.

        In her last placement my daughter had to see 2 suicidal patients almost every day for the whole 6 months rotation while waiting for secondary care to take them on. That's up to an hour each, on top of the normal workload. (Police, and occasionally Fire, will also tell the same story of mental health cases taking up far too much of their time to the detriment of normal work.) Also she has to take patients off their effective pain killers as they have reached the time limit, (many cause damage to other organs), when the operation the patient desperately needs is still many months away.

        Anon for obvious reasons

        1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

          It's more the point that to get to the point of passing, they have already 'made the cut' most of us wouldn't get to.

        2. Dante Alighieri
          Headmaster

          I object to this on the idea that GP is a lesser role.

          They are Consultants in Primary Care - which is an incredibly hard job to do well.

          I frequently remind people I work with of this.

          Qudos to your daughter.

          Remind her to sign up to DNUK

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Depends on what point in their career. I know several senior registrars who scrapped through their medical degrees, but once qualified moved into specialisations where they excelled…

        For example, one had no bedside manner and would tell people straight out their life expectancy from some condition, they however, excelled at pathology and did significant research into cot deaths.

        1. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

          That's the entire point of the comment. They past. They might not excel yet, but they _made the cut_ already to be in their profession.

        2. wsm

          Dr. House was British.

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          sociopathy is a leading trait in surgeons, It may well be a liability in a GP (Shipman springs to mind)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "WTF. So, next time you're on the slab you could be under the the care of someone who didn't, er, make the cut, so to speak."

      Errm, right, so they have all qualified as a doctor, but some crappy broken process has ranked them, and you're worried that you only want to see the ones that topped the list. I'll happily see anybody that's properly qualified, but each to their own.

      1. David Taylor 1

        I guess the question is whether anyone that emerges from the "crappy broken process" is "properly qualified".

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          The process here was for appointment to a role of suitably qualified applicants, not the results of clinical assessment.

          Whilst the Royal Colleges are some of the “worst” unions (even Thatcher shied away from taking them on) they do protect their members and have maintained clinical standards ie. Qualifications, and so will only allow those with both knowledge and reputation (colleges and senior colleges in that specific college who will support their application and vouch for the quality of their work and ability to work at the next level) to sit relevant exams and if successful progress.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        It depends what that test does, but if there's any point to having a test, then it has to tell those who are good at something from those who are bad. Ideally, if it can successfully do that, then we'd prefer to have the good ones, rather than the bad ones. If this is not what the test does, then I start wondering whether the test provides any value, and what it meant when someone was tested as "unappointable".

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      “ANRO decided to honor these 16 additional offers too"

      I read this sentence (in the original article) and expected the next line to be along the lines of: Oriel communicated the acceptance to an additional 24 candidates…

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: “ANRO decided to honor these 16 additional offers too"

        “…and also, due to a further user error, the developers who were named in Oriel’s ‘About’ dialog box.”

        The words booze-up and brewery rather come to mind.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the system is to get the candidates into the limited training place - approx 500 each year.

      ST3 applicants have already done about four years on the job training after graduation (2 years foundation and 2 core)

  6. Tim 11

    This is not an IT failing

    This is not an IT failing or an Excel failing - it's a management communication failing

    It's common sense at the most basic level to ensure that your employees know what they are supposed to be doing before they start a task, and to make sure they have done what you expected at the end.

    What clearly happened here is some manager shoved a load of work at some employees without any context or explanation and without any control process to check whether they were doing the right thing.

    both the size of the NHS and the use of IT are confounding factors here but management incompetence is at the core.

    1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: This is not an IT failing

      Management at a higher level should have ensured that all areas were using the same Excel template - then this could have been completely avoided!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: This is not an IT failing

        Management at a higher level still should have determined that spreadsheets were not an appropriate tool for the job and formidden their use.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: This is not an IT failing

          And instead decided on a nationwide NHS IT solution by the usual suspects which would take 10years, cost £1bazzilion and be abandoned as not fit for purpose

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: This is not an IT failing

            This is another problem. System is so corrupt, that usual suspects basically can just take the money and show middle finger in return.

            Ideally the IT systems should be built in house by NHS employees paid market rates, so they can source competent people.

            Contracts for external companies should have clauses containing severe penalties, including complete refund and damages paid and instances of non-delivery should be treated simply as fraud and people should be going to prison.

            This gravy train has to be derailed.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: This is not an IT failing

              >Ideally the IT systems should be built in house by NHS employees

              That's the clever bit, there is no "N"HS, there are 1000s of regional authorities and hospital trusts - all refusing to cooperate with each other. So none would pay another for a national solution

              Odd really that decades of governments, all deeply committed to the NHS as a beacon of Britain, should have arranged for it to be so ideally divided up as if for privatisation?

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: This is not an IT failing

                This fiasco preceded the current bunch. The NHS was was (like the schools) "reformed" to create competition instead of cooperation. Each health trust is a mini state. And a health trust in one area may well be running some services, such as Physio or Speech and Language, in another, though maybe not as much as those "reformers" wanted.

                N.B. In all public sector fields "Pushing down costs" through competition means that either there are fewer staff or less well paid staff ( or probably both).

                1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                  Re: This is not an IT failing

                  But all this brings the "efficiency of the free market" to healthcare - right ?

                  1. VicMortimer Silver badge

                    Re: This is not an IT failing

                    Just take a look over here and see what THAT bullshit gets you.

                    Wait times are frequently LONGER than you have. Communication between doctors is virtually nonexistent. Most of your 10 minute appointment is the doctor typing billing codes into a laptop.

                    And then you get a giant bill.

                    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                      Re: This is not an IT failing

                      >Just take a look over here and see what THAT bullshit gets you.

                      Rich shareholders?

                      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                        Re: This is not an IT failing

                        "System is working exactly as designed"

                2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

                  Re: This is not an IT failing

                  This is obviously a wrong model and someone who came up with this completely misunderstood capitalism and the idea of free market.

                3. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: This is not an IT failing

                  > ... "Pushing down costs" through competition...

                  ...Is the ethos which resulted in the German Post Office of the 1930s having a weapons research division (amongst other absurdities)

                  The mindset of eternal struggle comes from "social darwinism". It's never ended well for those involved (and we should be thankful for that)

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: This is not an IT failing

                It's not just the RHAs and NHS trusts.

                The same happens in Police, Fire, schools and other critical services which made sense as county organisations once upon a time but fail badly in an environment of mobile populations

                Attempts to unify services have been met by determined resistance from higher ups who see national level organisation as usurping their authority (or interfering with their gravy train)

                The same thing applied in British Rail. For at least 20 years after nationalisation what "BR" was still run under the same "Big five" and smaller railway company managements who saw each other as the enemy (Which is why the Central line got poleaxed). Leland was similar. What was _actually needed was a ruthless cull of _upper_ manglement so that the people making money (the people building products to sell) could get on with their jobs unmolested ("Union Strife" only happens when managment has already gone to pot. Happy workers don't tolerate militant union leaders)

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: This is not an IT failing

              Such contracts should also prohibit the shifting of goalposts partway through

              This is the single largest problem with such contracts - it's not that the contractors can't deliver, but that they're aiming for a moving target

              Something I was involved in many years ago had the CEO decide he knew more than the rest of industry - so he drew up a design for a system which _3_ contractors refused to bid on because it wouldn't work as designed (it didn't help that he insisted on running it on Windows) and they didn't want their reputations damaged.

              The 4th contractor said "sure, we'll do it" (for 20% more than he'd told the board) and rolled it out _exactly_ as designed - on time and under budget.

              However, the first 3 contractors were correct. It _didn't_ work as designed.

              Budget blew out by a factor of 20 and the company reacted to mounting criticism and attention by taking legal action against those who outed his use of legal threats to gag people, with the backing of the BoD

              In the end he was fired, the BoD ousted and the (still broken) software replaced by an existing opensource package which cost less than 20% of the original design cost and worked first time. The company was sold off less than 2 years later

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: This is not an IT failing

        > Management at a higher level

        What?

        Management would have set out the requirement, it was the people who enacted the requirement who failed firstly to demand data in a standard format (ie. Send out a template spreadsheet to all), then secondly failed rectify the mistake when they received data back in multiple formats.

        Locking down Excel would not prevent the mistake as then the data would most probably have been communicated in loosely structured text emails, giving even more room for transcription errors.

    2. JoeCool Bronze badge
      FAIL

      This is in fact an IT failing

      Excel has ONE dependable use : Data Input. And output is sketchy.

      Excel has ONE acceptable use : non-critical ad-hoc data analysis or modelling

      ANY IT professional allowing Excel use for any production data processing should be immediately dis-accredited

      That's the IT failing.

      Excel is so full of implicit conversions and unverified calculations, that it cannot be trusted without rigorous testing, sanity checking of results and change control (which is totally counter to the reasons most people like to use it).

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: This is in fact an IT failing

        "Excel has ONE acceptable use : non-critical ad-hoc data analysis or modelling".

        Exactly, and, as my previous comment implies, that's probably how it started. Someone who was given the job of tabulating and ranking the candidates knocked up a spreadsheet to help them. And it probably did that job perfectly well in that limited context. But, then either staff doing the same job in other regions came to the same conclusion or heard about that one and made their own.

        And then someone was told to put the the data together.........

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: This is in fact an IT failing

        "ANY IT professional allowing Excel use for any production data processing should be immediately dis-accredited"

        IT probably wasn't informed. Every machine has Office on it for various reasons, including Excel for exactly the reasons you say it's acceptable, and people just use that because it's all they know. They didn't ask for IT's approval before doing it. IT, meanwhile, can't just write up a database system that reliably handles this in a day, nor at all without collecting information about how the system's supposed to work. Should they try either of those things, they're likely to be told that the current processes are fine and there are higher priority tasks. If IT were to say no, which they may not know to do, they probably can't offer any alternative other than an equally reliable and less productive manual process.

        While I'm not in IT, I have a similar thing as a programmer. It's not Excel here. It's scripts. A variety of languages, a variety of purposes, but some script that I wrote which helps with some part of my job. As long as it's me using it, everything is usually fine, because if it crashes halfway through, I know what it's doing. Therefore, my scripts don't do as much checking as they would have to do if anyone else got them. However, if all my scripts were sent to my colleagues, it's not going to work well, because the script that assumes that you know the specific CSV input format I'm expecting wasn't built to handle a different kind. If my colleagues all make some modifications to their version for their use case, we'll eventually get to a point where the scripts produce different results. One feature of my job is not letting anyone else have my temporary scripts unless I've first advanced them to a higher standard, documented proper usage, and put them in a single central location. It doesn't sound like they did that with the spreadsheets they were using.

      3. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: This is in fact an IT failing

        Excel has ONE dependable use : Data Input. And output is sketchy.

        Excuse me while I laugh hollowly.

        All the geneticists that have had to, as a field of scientific study, had to rename certain genes because they are interpreted as Excel (by default) as month names.

        All the people who copy and paste text data into cells, only for it to be interpreted non-reversibly, as a date.

        All the people who use spreadsheets in more than one locale, where the decimal separators are different (commas or full stops)

        You can call the above 'people not using the tool correctly', because if you are aware of the issues you can avoid them and work round them. On the other hand, Excel defaults trip people up, time after time. People don't learn all the features before using it - that applies to word processors as well , where people still format by using spaces and line-feeds, as though Word were solely a software typewriter.

        Excel and Word are very powerful tools, but for most people, it's like trusting a toddler with a circular saw. The results are not pretty.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is in fact an IT failing

          > All the people who use spreadsheets in more than one locale, where the decimal separators are different (commas or full stops)

          Been there, dealt with that..........working in a multinational team where Excel in English saves CSV files with comma separators (i.e. the "CS" part of "CSV" as expected) whereas Excel in German saves CSV files with semicolon separators. Doh!

        2. Vincent Ballard

          Re: This is in fact an IT failing

          Decimal separators are only the tip of the iceberg. Excel localises the names of all of the inbuilt functions, so if you move a spreadsheet between locales nearly any calculation which involves more than the four basic arithmetic operators will break.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: This is in fact an IT failing

            "Excel localises the names of all of the inbuilt functions, ..."

            It could, of course, have remembered which locale was in effect when the script was written and translated the names according to the current locale.

            But why would anyone want to use Excel in any locale other than "English (US)"?

        3. Reaps

          Re: This is in fact an IT failing

          thanks for reminding me about the nightmare of excel re-writing input randomly.

  7. Len
    Facepalm

    EuSpRIG horror list

    This is a nice addition to the European Spreadsheet Risk Interest Group Horror List.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: EuSpRIG horror list

      Thanks for that link. I'd not seen it before.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: EuSpRIG horror list

        I wonder what tool they use to catalogue these reports ?

        1. David 132 Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: EuSpRIG horror list

          MS Paint.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "a complex and confused approach to using spreadsheets led to the disaster"

    When managers try to manage by spreadsheets is there any other approach and any other outcome?

  9. Lee D Silver badge

    I'm gonna say it:

    - Business processes should not be carried out in spreadsheets.

    Spreadsheets are for financial tabulation (with double-entry, multiple-eyes, verifying totals, sanity checking large numbers, etc. etc.)

    They are not databases and they shouldn't be used as such.

    This extends from everything "just upload a CSV" to huge things with macros. None of that should be happening via a spreadsheet program.

    We have a standardised database language format. Use it.

    If you're conjoining seven different areas, you need a standard template, or an interface (e.g. gosh, maybe like a FORM that you fill in online!) at minimum. You also need one person who does nothing but collate, press and verify that data before handing it over.

    I have seen multi-million pound businesses with a bunch of "critical" spreadsheets that have a 20-year legacy in them, not to mention storing the latest version as "FINAL.xls" (not even xlsx!) each year in a bunch of folders spread at random across a network and client devices such that version management and collaboration is almost impossible. And not long ago, either.

    They had finance packages designed for their industry, they had every tool under the sun available to them, but no, it was all clunking along with Copy of Copy of spreadsheets with an archaic origin, manual formatting, horrendous formulae and plucking numbers out of the expensive finance system to go into Excel to then jigger about and put them back in.

    And not just numbers - criminal record checks, staff lists, training courses, you name it.

    EXCEL IS A SPREADSHEET. Use it like one. It is not a database, not a form interface (so people shouldn't all be "entering their data into a spreadsheet" directly for you!), not a financial ledger, and it's not an automation tool.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      "EXCEL IS A SPREADSHEET. Use it like one. It is not a database, not a form interface (so people shouldn't all be "entering their data into a spreadsheet" directly for you!), not a financial ledger, and it's not an automation tool."

      From the POV of people using it, it can do a decent-ish job at most-of-the-above, it is right there on their desktop and they can save the result locally to their PC. They need no IT intervention, no permission, no budget, no 2-month long discovery, 3-month planning, 6-month-at-minimum development lifecycle. Their boss has just dumped some massive new task on their laps on top of all the shit they have to deal with day-to-day, and they know just enough Excel to know they can deliver *something*, and they know that their boss will be much more welcome to get *something* in Excel now than a properly-designed solution next year.

      The problem is with management who do not consider things like fault-tolerance, backups, scalability, extensibility etc, and with whole company structures being beholden to beancounters which means that between the "big 3" umbrella requirements of cheap, fast, good, it is almost always cheap and fast which are prioritised. Excel is cheap, fast and "mostly-good-enough *right now*", and to hell with whether it is still going to be good enough next year let alone 5 years from now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        There's many tasks where a database is a proper tool, but which can't ever qualify for a professional database to be coded up with all the skills we'd expect of a proper job (business analysts, developers, data strategists, project managers etc etc). MS Access is commonly available but little used (and sometimes poorly used) so in the real world what is the right solution if it isn't Excel?

        1. Primus Secundus Tertius

          MS Access is only there if you use Office Pro. It is not there is the cheaper Office Business.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "so in the real world what is the right solution if it isn't Excel?"

          It would appear that there's a gap in the market for a tool which manages data rather better than Excel but which can be configured by non-specialists even if it's not in the Office suite. Of course as it's not in the Office suite the need for it is not even visible to many business users.

        3. Martin Gregorie

          Excel recruitment time bomb makes top trainee doctors 'unappointable'

          This type of data collectiion looks very like the sort of thing that would be a good fit for a traditional 4GL package system: the sort of package we used to run on our PCs in the late '70s and early '80s. Examples are DBase, and Sculptor - the latter is still a going concern at https://sculptor.co.uk/ (disclaimer: I have no current connection with them, being merely a happy application developer from the '80s.

          This sort of system is a much better fit for the sort of data capture task we're discussing than a spreadsheet because it:

          - provides a captioned data entry screen that can also correct misentered data as needed

          - has the built-in ability to validate data as its entered

          - stores captured data in a predefined (indexed) sequence

          - can generate reports and export the data in other formats such as CSV files.

          - several of them have can allow several data capture instances to update a common database file.

          Most of these 4GL systems make it fairly easy to write and test a simple data capture system (file definition(s), data capture screen, and a report or two) within a normal working day.

          The sorts of tasks I've used Sculptor for have included both multi-currency accounting systems and a scoring system for Free Flight model championships where the scoring system ran off a portable petrol generator with the computer and screena and printer in back of a parcel van.

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Excel recruitment time bomb makes top trainee doctors 'unappointable'

            > traditional 4GL package

            Much as "4GL" makes me grind my teeth in lieu of screaming rants about that name, have an upvote for an otherwise very sensible comment.

            Hmm, Sculptor are very cagey (as in, no mention I can see) about pricing, which usually means it is way out of range for, say, just doing a scoring system for Free Flight model championships or anything similar.

            Would be nice to have suggestions if anyone knows of a viable (i.e. affordable, even cheap, even Open Source!), non-cloud, program for that sort of small job (the sort of thing that assorted clubs may want to do). NOT Excel! Or anything else that presents itself as a spreadsheet "for familiarity and ease of use"!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Excel recruitment time bomb makes top trainee doctors 'unappointable'

              > Would be nice to have suggestions if anyone knows of a viable (i.e. affordable, even cheap, even Open Source!), non-cloud, program for that sort of small job (the sort of thing that assorted clubs may want to do).

              Datasette? https://datasette.io/

            2. Martin Gregorie

              Re: Excel recruitment time bomb makes top trainee doctors 'unappointable'

              Sculptor are very cagey (as in, no mention I can see) about pricing, which usually means it is way out of range for, say, just doing a scoring system for Free Flight model championships or anything similar.

              Very true. Back in the day it was relatively expensive mainly because it was aimed at small IT businesses who wrote bespoke or customisable systems for sole traders or non-IT small businesses. This is the scenario I first used it in. IOW it was not something an individual user was expected to buy. Maybe that's why Sculptor is still supported and available?

              FWIW, When Sculptor dropped support for OS9/68K, one of its US suppliers got caught short with a heap of Sculptor copies and flogged them off cheap via the '68 MicroJournal: I'd already discovered Sculptor when I was working for a small UK software house and liked it, so I immediately grabbed a copy for my own use: for several years, until Linux appeared, I was running OS9/68K on a MC68020 box as my house server, and had my copy of Sculptor installed on that. This kit is what I ran the Free Flight scoring system on.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        with whole company structures being beholden to beancounters

        The problem with having things run by beancounters is that there's never budget to do it right in the first place but there's always budget to recover the disaster.

        Excel is cheap, fast and "mostly-good-enough *right now*"

        I think it's a often a case of looking mostly-good-enough rather than being that.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        If you're wise, you will setup the Excel "lashed up" solution in ways that will result in it self-destructing after 6 months

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "I have seen multi-million pound businesses with a bunch of "critical" spreadsheets that have a 20-year legacy in them"

      I'll see your "multi-million pound" and raise it to "multi-BILLION pound"

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    FAIL

    "The interview scores are stored in an Excel spreadsheet"

    And right there you strike out.

    Any important data should not be stored in Excel. It should be in a proper actual database, be it MSSQL or Oracle or literally anything else.

    Because a database needs a proper db admin, and probably a designer as well. Tha's two people to raise questions and ensure data accuracy.

    Excel ? A single fool can mash anything up, and that's what happened here.

    I give Office training courses. I've heard people say they know how to program because they have used Word macros.

    That is what happened.

    No pity.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: "The interview scores are stored in an Excel spreadsheet"

      Every database, from a set of data cards to a spreadsheet to an SQL Monstrosity needs someone whose primary job is to keep that data in good shape. In a small office that may be just one hour per day, but it has to be done.

    2. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      Re: "The interview scores are stored in an Excel spreadsheet"

      You're probably not going to like my own personal spreadsheet example then. It's currently using 3 Workbooks, >200 Worksheets, >700 Structured Tables, and >11.4M cells (counting only the cells that exist in structured tables, to keep it simple).

  11. gryphon

    Excel Errors

    I was always told that as a rule of thumb there would be 1 error for every 100 rows in an Excel spreadsheet.

    Guess what finance people love to use and stuff with macros etc. as many others have noted above.

    Then they feed it into the real financial systems.

    Very much GIGO.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Excel Errors

      "Then they feed it into the real financial systems."

      Either that or it is their real financial system.

      1. wegie

        Re: Excel Errors

        "Either that or it is their real financial system."

        No, no, no. Keep up at the back. The real financial system is Excel plus all the positions they've got saved in their Bloomberg terminal!

  12. t245t
    Terminator

    Complex confused spreadsheets

    Spreadsheets are unsuitable for serious work. Best use a database. Once it's designed the view can be locked-down to look like a spreadsheet to prevent the end-user entering erroneous data. So all ANRO has to do is design the one database and distributed this to the various agencies. Then collect and merge the subsequent records.

    $ping https://www.oriel.nhs.uk .. Request timed out.

  13. Deft

    Poor simpletons

    They need to upskill and use Power Query to really mangle those Excel workbooks.

  14. Slow Joe Crow

    An excellent example of "to err is human, to truly screw things up requires a computer"

  15. MacDBB

    Although Excel is clearly the wrong tool here, VLOOKUP is one of the more potentially problematic functions within Excel. Most obviously you'd want to fix your cell range with $ before copying and pasting a formula down a column. But beyond that there's the final optional parameter which indicates whether the function should perform a range-lookup - if this isn't set to false it defaults to true. A value of true in the range lookup will mean that if nothing matches, then the next closest approximate value will be returned. This can have fairly disastrous consequences if there are typos in fields such as names.

    1. TSM

      > A value of true in the range lookup will mean that if nothing matches, then the next closest approximate value will be returned. This can have fairly disastrous consequences if there are typos in fields such as names.

      That's not the biggest problem with it. The biggest problem is that if it uses a range lookup, which is the default, it assumes the data is sorted and does a binary search. If your data isn't sorted, you essentially get a random result from the list. So if you forget to add ", false" in your vlookup, you get a random result, which may or may not be easily noticeable. The same thing happens with match() which is the "find the record" half of vlookup(), index() being the "retrieve a value" half.

      It's actually rather annoying that "range vs. exact match" and "data is sorted, use binary search" are tied together in this way. For exact match required cases with large numbers of records, I sort the data and use a two-step process along the lines of "do a range match for this value", followed by "check if the value you found is the value we're looking for". Makes for a clunky spreadsheet design, but a comparison that runs in 20 seconds that used to be "start this and then go to lunch" (and still woudn't be done when you were back), because binary search on 100k+ records is just ever so slightly faster than linear...

  16. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Yeah Glod, this is something you DO NOT DO MANUALLY!

    1. VicMortimer Silver badge

      On the contrary, this is exactly the sort of thing you do manually.

      What went wrong was an idiotic attempt to automate something that would have been just fine if a reasonably competent human had done it manually. A spreadsheet is fine, because it's ultimately a smallish list of people that you're trying to use to fill positions. Just don't attempt to automate it.

      Whacking together a database is the wrong approach. Scripting the spreadsheet is the wrong approach. An actual human should be looking at this, and if the numbers show every applicant is inadequate they should intuitively question the numbers and start asking questions.

  17. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Started reading, think it was a Who Me? Without a tag...

    Then the tone was rather serious...

  18. Derezed
    Facepalm

    This is why I have a job

    2023 and this shit still happens?

    Good for me for what I do…bad for people fucked over by an unbelievably poor system.

    AI will replace us all…yeah right…this was a problem 20 years ago…another 20 and I’ll retire and people will still be pulling shit like this.

    Do better!!!!

    Saying they should have used MS Access instead of Excel for this application is like saying the person responsible for cleaning the Golden Gate Bridge should use a hairbrush instead of a toothbrush…these are desktop applications not enterprise data management tools!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: This is why I have a job

      It wasn't enterprise management scale.

  19. that one in the corner Silver badge

    On a lighter note

    Anyone else getting whiplash as we are flung across the Atlantic and back again almost every sentence?

    For example:

    > The NHS suffers from a chronic shortage of anesthetists. Last year, the Association of Anaesthetists

    Why must the noble diphthong be so cruelly treated?

  20. Richard Pennington 1
    Facepalm

    Sounds like they're also short of Excel psychiatrists

    ... to sanity-check their results.

  21. AVR

    Doctors aren't great DBAs

    On the one hand, this is what happens when you cut the back-office staff and make doctors do the administration without support. On the other, it sounds like they're absolutely looking for excuses to let in as many trainees as possible and this blunder is a blessing in disguise.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Doctors aren't great DBAs

      And why DBAs don't make great doctors.

      "OK, I've cut the kidney... how do I paste it into someone else? We should make a copy too, be very handy."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doctors aren't great DBAs

      What they are good at is assuming that since they can do something on their MacBook/iPad (commonly), it must be a suitable solution for Enterprise use. Also, have never heard of GDPR/DPA unless it's to do with their own data. Or backups.

  22. TRT Silver badge

    I think it sounds like the ideal combination...

    Anaesthesia literally means without a sense of pleasure, which is a perfect description of Excel.

  23. Herring`

    These things happen everywhere

    The people who need a solution are presented with a choice:

    Go to IT to get something developed properly. Spend the next n months on estimates, plans, budgets. Watch as project managers, business analysts, architects (business, data, application, technical and enterpise) are brought on board. Proposals are taken to steering committees, potential solutions are evaluated for whether they are "strategic". If you're lucky, some external consultants will be brought in.

    Or just knock something up in Excel. Something that will grow and mutate and eventually - 4 years after the original creator has left - will be recognised as "mission critical".

    I've mostly worked in the private sector where these fur cups rarely get made public. But they are out there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: These things happen everywhere

      Totally agree. Every time this sort of story hits the Register we get the ivory tower 'should have done it differently' response. Meanwhile the business critical reporting function that we need each month, that's properly programmed can't be updated to use the new database structure because 'something something updated driver' and 'something something priority' and 'maybe next year'. So thankyou, looks like we go back to Excel. Because there are NO that ever have the resource to fully support day to day business requirements, unless, you are working in a widget factory that produces a single brand of widget, has one customer and uses robots, not staff. and even then I bet IT are too busy to answer the phone because they are too busy trying to get their new help desk software to interface with a fax machine.

    2. DoctorPaul

      Re: These things happen everywhere

      Very much this.

      My last gigs before retirement involved converting Access databases to MySQL with a web front end. The sort of Access databases (I use the term loosely) that people put together after their Excel spreadsheet has run out of steam and which in turn finally fell flat on their faces. Anyone ever noticed how Access fails just as things get really complicated, or is it just me?

      Best example was when I was asked to make a small mod to an Access database that a new partner had brought in from his previous post. Obviously he hadn't written it or he could have changed it himself. I reminded the client that I had made it very clear that I only touched Access in order to get data out of it, but said that I would make an exception in this case.

      Turns out that the mod was to remove the previous company's logo and replace it with the company's own logo. Simple enough, but when I deleted the "old" logo there was another logo from an even earlier company underneath! IP rights anyone?

      For context, my client was a firm of consultants charged with the oversight of multi-billion pound projects. Don't want to be more specific than that, to protect the guilty.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: These things happen everywhere

      This may come as a surprise to some people, but IT needs to get closer to users. There are situations where big complex systems need complex analysis and testing (Horizon!) but there are others where, with an appropriate set of RAD tools or the like, something can be put together professionally but without the high ceremony methodology. Maybe we lack CIOs who rate serving the business some above running big-budget projects.

  24. uv

    Looking forward

    ...to Matt Parker's next video.

  25. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Excel is overwhelmed

    Time to place an ad for a "big data Engineer."

    (I wish I was kidding but I see those job openings frequently)

  26. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Oversite?

    Any oversite? I mean, I worked as a temp at the cable company here briefly, they had a system act up and start printing out 1 cent checks. Guess what they did? Noticed this thing that normally printed like 3 or 4 checks was printing a stack instead (if someone cancelled service mid-month, they could get the prorated amount refunded), stopped it printing, didn't mail out the checks, fixed the problem, and had it print out whatever checks were really supposed to go out.

    You'd think somebody there would have noticed they had WAY more "unappointable" candidates than normal and went to see what was going on before they sent anything out.

    Ahh well.

  27. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Pencil and paper...

    24 candidates per region x number of regions can not be too many - the article had 400 total candidate (16 2/3 regions doesn't add up?)

    Ranking 400 candidates by hand isn't rocket science just tedious.

    Assuming each region had a different selection panel you might do some stats to adjust the raw scores before ranking.

    Existing software to do this stuff is common enough in the education sector.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Pencil and paper...

      There seems to be a number of reports/statements

      Announcement: https://www.rcoa.ac.uk/news/nhs-england-anaesthetics-ct1-recruitment-review-report

      Summary Report: https://anro.wm.hee.nhs.uk/Portals/3/Anaesthetics%20CT1%20recruitment%20review%20report-FINAL.pdf

      A full report released under FOI: https://anro.wm.hee.nhs.uk/Portals/3/Anaesthetics%20Recruitment%20-%20Significant%20Incident%20Report%20-%20Dec%2021.pdf?ver=hqDrm_-syzeLmBcfbigWJA%3D%3D

      It would seem the underlying issue was lack of integration between Oriel and the Qpercom scoring system, requiring staff to manipulate data to transfer it between systems. Which in turn points to a lapse in management in allowing such ad-hoc methods becoming the normal procedure.

      The communication issue was later identified as a fault in Oriel, that the developer then fixed.

      Skimming the report, it does seem ANRO’s whole business approach and ethos to the HR process and its people leaves much to be desired.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Pencil and paper...

      Ranking 400 candidates by hand isn't rocket science just tedious.

      NB "Tedious".

      Likely, some admin, maybe after doing this for a year or two, decided to whack it into a spreadsheet to save both reinventing the wheel each year, and the general tedium of a dull job.

      That's what it's good for. And that's as far as it should have gone

  28. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Ai

    If instead of AI (artificial idiocy) they had created AI (artificial intelligence), you could have handed that spreadsheet to an AI, told it “see what you think of this”, and it would have said “looks like all those from wales have ridiculously low scores, and what’s really weird is that their scores are 24 numbers from 1 to 24, so something looks messed up here”.

    Now if you handed that spreadsheet to someone with real intelligence the same would have happened.

  29. I&I

    So regardless of known error, some of the crappest applicants got accepted (so as not to hurt their feelings?). Does that increase the chance of patients' loved ones feelings becoming fatally hurt?

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