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Letter of the Week Every now and then we get a letter of such quality that we can't wait 'till the next batch of correspondence to run it. This is such an occasion.

Allow us to remind you of the story last week detailing the latest financial difficulties to beset the NHS's National Programme for IT. Shortly after this story ran, the NPfIT itself wrote to us explaining just how wrong we were.

As well as a whole sackful of responses (published on Tuesday this week here) we have received the following. Dave, you have the floor:

Ohh, look, a spokesperson... hey, I know, let's play 'shoot the messenger'!

" It has been reported that the NHS has been "fined". The NHS has not been "fined". It has to pay for not meeting its contractual obligations. "

Hey! Spokesweasel! What you're saying is that the NHS is in breach of contract, and so the other party to the contract has invoked a penalty clause, resulting in the NHS having to pay a financial penalty, yes? And what's the dictionary definition of the verb "to fine"? Well, dictionary.com quotes: "A forfeiture or penalty to be paid to the offended party in a civil action." The breach of contract is a civil case, yes? And the money you paid was a penalty, yes? And the people you paid it to were the offended party, yes?

Then it's a fine, dummy! BANG! Now, what else can we shoot you for.. oh yes..

" Theo (sic.) central costs of the IT programme, covering the core contracts, are £6.2bn. These costs have not risen. However, we have long been clear that the cost of implementation will also include local NHS IT spend on software, hardware and training. These costs will be met by trusts' existing spend on IT - around £1bn a year - so to claim costs have spiralled to £20bn is misleading as it includes the £6.2bn central costs plus additional existing local spend on IT over the 10 year implementation of the programme."

Hey! Spokesthing! The way I add it, ten plus six makes sixteen. Where'd the other four billion quid go? You may not call that spiralling, but I know how I'd feel if something I was buying suddenly got a whole 25% more expensive while I was in the middle of purchasing it... BANG!<

Oh, plus of course: the Reg didn't actually use the word "spiralling". You made that up to make their claims seem overexaggerated so that your false denials would seem more plausible, didn't you? BANG!< Yes, you did!

In fact, you said that it was "completely incorrect" to describe the project as over budget, but then you admit to a four billion pound deficit and deny only that it's "spiralling". That means it's NOT AT ALL incorrect to describe it as overbudget, by your own admission. BANG!<

Aww. It's still writhing. Maybe we should stomp on its head. Then again, maybe we should just leave it there to bleed slowly to death.

Strewth, who ever decided the NHS needed spin doctors more than medical ones really needs to have their head examined. That's assuming there's still any NHS psychiatric care services *left*, of course....

cheers, DaveK

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