A brief guide to some English tenses

Past Continuous

I was sitting at home, playing poker, needing a distraction from the stream of mucked hands, casting a mouse across BBCi, reading news of the argument over Foundation Trusts and Foundation Hospitals.

I found myself at the Department of Health web site (www.doh.gov.uk/nhsfoundationtrusts).

I was screaming, while reading paragraph 2:

"Despite having the most equitable health care system in the world health inequalities have widened not narrowed. Uniformity in provision has not guaranteed equality in health outcomes"
I was reading paragraph 6, while cursing:
"Local people will elect their representatives to serve on the NHS Foundation Trust’s Board of Governors. They will have an absolute majority"
I was nearly vomiting by the time I had finished paragraph 10:
"For the first time since 1948 the NHS will begin to move away from a monolithic centralised system towards greater local accountability and greater local control. Reform cannot be achieved by holding on to the monolithic centralised structures of the 1940s. We cannot reform by looking backwards. We need to look forwards. Reform means investing not just extra resources in frontline services, but power and trust in those frontline services."
Dear Mr Milburn,

What, please, is a 'health outcome'?
What do you mean when you say that inequalities 
have the most equitable health care system in the world?
Who will have an absolute majority?
More to the point, how?

Thank you for pointing out that reform requires change.

Yours, enlightened and yet confused.


I was checking my Hotmail, when I happened upon a job-related email.

"Public sector client requires 4 x Plain English Web Content Writers. The successful candidates will be required to take on board source material (including legislation) from various government departments and reproduce the content in Plain English for the client's Web portal."

Present Continuous

I am wondering whether Alan Milburn is the 'Public sector client' mentioned, or whether the DOH web site is merely one of a host of government sites currently playing hackey sack with the English language.

Future Continuous

I will be updating my CV this evening.

The end...

In the interests of thoroughness and parity, I thought I'd cast my eye over a few other government department sites. I was not overly impressed.

Department of Health

The other parts of the DOH web site are no improvement, I'm afraid. There's a page called "The New NHS", which curiously fails to mention Foundation Trusts, although it does talk about "Shifting the Balance of Power" (one capital too many, I fear), and the abolition of regional offices, which seems a curious way of reforming a 'monolithic centralised system', methinks.

Department for Transport

Over at the Department for Transport (www.dft.gov.uk), there's an exciting game to play in which you have to try to stay awake long enough to reach any actual content. Clicking the 'News' button proves particularly unhelpful. A style sheet would be a friendly addition.

Department for Employment and Learning

The Department for Employment and Learning (http://www.delni.gov.uk) do a lot better, and have even gone as far as providing useful links and information on their site (although it only took me one click on 'Essential Skills' before I was offered a phone number. So much more convenient than a web page, a phone number. Especially when you have a dial-up connection.) No questions have been frequently asked, sadly.

department for culture, media and sport

meanwhile, over at the department for culture, media and sport (www.culture.gov.uk), capital letters have been outlawed. lower case only please. it's a cultural thing, i suppose. and to be honest i think it works ok. Interestingly, the DCMS is responsible these days for alcohol licensing, which seems a bit strange, but who better than the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr Kim Howells MP) to decide when I should be allowed to buy a lager?

The best of those tested, I'm afraid.

You know, it's funny. I was under the impression that the current government was somehow more dynamic than this. That they were able to communicate with their public. That they are in touch, online, and out there. And that's one of the reasons they remain popular.

So how come these government web sites are still predominantly sh*t? Where are the good ones? Please /msg me if you know.

End transmission