Feeds

NHS IT probe useless

For the NHS, anyway, says expert

High performance access to file storage

By the time the official audit of the government's £6.1bn NHS IT modernisation is published in the summer it will be too late to be of any the cash-strapped NHS, said a leading contributor to the investigation.

However, the National Audit Office report might contain a valuable lesson for other arms of the public sector undergoing programmes of modernisation similar to the ambitious NHS National Programme for IT* ,said Glyn Hayes, chairman of the Health Informatics Committee of the British Computer Society.

And the lesson is: programmes driven by a political imperative are more likely to run into problems.

Hayes, who represents over 2,500 clinicians, academics, professionals and suppliers, contributed to the NAO investigation in late 2004. The NAO report that digested this submission was due last summer and will now be delivered a year late.

"One problem is that it will be out of date because the problems we were talking about have either been addressed or are now not relevant," said Hayes.

The NAO is very sensitive to these kinds of accusations because it works hard to ensure its publications are current, not least so they can't be trumped by politicians who would benefit from having some report or another discredited.

The NAO has investigated the procurement for NPfIT, which was notoriously secretive and was accused of failing to consult either the clinicians who would use the systems or the hundreds of indigenous suppliers who knew the most about NHS IT, whose livelihoods were threatened by the programme.

"There's little doubt there are lessons to be learned about how the National Programme was put together because it was done without following good principles for big IT projects," said Hayes.

"Connecting for Health in its early days didn't stop for any of those because it was driven politically," he said.

The the McCartney report stressed that ambitious IT projects, none of which at that time had come anywhere the size and scope of NPfIT, should be approached with caution and implemented in considered, bite size stages.

Special care should be taken for a project to progress at the pace at which the organisation could handle the change, not a pace determined by the project leaders, it said.

Reports about NPfIT's progress since its inception two years after the McCartney report have often described an authoritarian approach to project management more concerned with its own artificial deadlines than any practical design or schedule.

A Public Accounts Committee hearing into the work of the NAO in February, revealed that the NAO's report on NPfIT will be critical of its approach.

Committee member Richard Bacon, MP for Norfolk South, said NPfIT "exhibits all the classic signs of a huge IT failure" because "it was ordained from the centre, there was no consultation".

Sir John Bourn, Comptroller & Auditor General, responded: "In the report that I produce it will make clear the failure to take the people in the National Health Service with them. All the things that you say, the idea of having it wished on them, the idea of having to pay for something they do not want, are there."

Bourn described "dissension" in the NHS over the programme, the extent of which has become apparent in recent weeks with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust requesting tenders for its own systems instead of waiting for the late delivery of those developed by NPfIT; and United Bristol Healthcare NHS Trust asking NPfIT to pay for the arrangements it is having to make with IT suppliers to keep its existing systems going until NPfIT delivers.

NPfIT has started recording successes, appearing to have overcome the problems that beset its early years. So it might be too late for anything in the NAO's study to prevent public money being squandered on the badly executed £6.1bn Programme.

Another report repeating guidance given numerous times before and after McCartney might prevent the same mistakes from happening again. But the political pressure for radical transformation of public services using IT is in greater evidence than ever with such initiatives as the efficiency drive, shared services and e-government.

"The money they have spent could have achieved more, earlier," said Hayes. "The political drive was a problem. The timescales, the scope and everything else was determined by the politicians."®

* Now called "Connecting for Health". Its name change appeared to be a vain attempt to wash off the lousy reputation that had been accumulating around the project like bad bacteria

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.