The big NHS news story today is that the Government is reviewing a large IT contract to provide a records system across the NHS. The project was inherited from Labour and has wasted billions. There are ways to ensure good management of huge IT projects but successive UK governments have failed. I expect that many good lunches have been had with so many billions.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
The Department of Health will not deliver the £11bn programme intended to create electronic records for all 55 million NHS patients in England and has been “unable to demonstrate” any benefits for the taxpayer, according to a scathing report from MPs.
The Commons public accounts committee said parts of the national programme for IT have proved to be unworkable.
The Department of Health has so far spent £6.4bn on the programme, which was launched in 2002, including £2.7bn on patient records.
MPs said the intention of creating electronic records was a “worthwhile aim” but one “that has proved beyond the capacity of the department to deliver”.
The IT project has floundered almost since the day it was conceived. The national scheme was broken up into five administrative areas, with each region handing out a contract – often worth billions – to big private players, which, it was envisaged, would commission software houses to write computer code.
An expert in IT leadership has hit out at the government and the civil service’s cluelessness with IT, tracing back the £11 billion NHS IT debacle to Blair’s cultivation of outsourcing.
The comments come on the back of a select committee report calling for the end of the centralised NHS IT project. It marks another shocking failure at every level. MPs agree that the National Programme, part of a wider £11.4 billion e-record scheme, desperately needs an urgent review.
“The Department of Health is not going to achieve its original aim of a fully integrated care records system across the NHS,” said committee chair Margaret Hodgson MP.
“Trying to create a one-size-fits-all system in the NHS was a massive risk and has proven to be unworkable.”
Yet again, the government was paying way over the odds for services which did not work. BT is a culprit, leading to accusations of government officials having all the bargaining nous of a first-round Apprentice contestant. The report says the government is “clearly overpaying BT to implement systems,” and according to the Committee, it squeezed £9 million where the exact same systems had been purchased at other NHS organisations for £2 million.