Monday, August 09, 2004

NPfIT Project - state of play

Posted on 23rd July 2004:

Dear all,

I am still busy researching the National Programme for IT, which is the project underpinning NHS reform. I have nearly caught up with everything I can find on it, after less than a day and a half of effort. This reflects the secrecy which surrounds this project. Here is a comment submitted to the Silicon.Com news service, which gives you a flavour of what is going on:
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Name: Anonymous
Country: UK
Occupation: IT Manager

Comments: Believe me we are worried sick in the NHS about the NPfit. We have spent 7 billion pounds and haven't a clue what has been purchased. Biggest white elephant ever.

I'm not sure where he gets the £7 billion from. Contracts for a mere £5 billion have been signed so far, with a mere £11.6 billion estimated spend from 2003 to 2010 :-) Richard Granger, Director General of NHS IT, has been in post since September 2002. Here is an interesting interview with the man:

He was formerly at Deloitte Consulting and is the highest paid civil servant, earning about £250,000 per annum. Given the incredibly tight timescales, the lack of publicly available information is amazing. As far as I can tell, all the technical specs are still confidential. Given that the idea is that existing IT systems can be upgraded to integrate with this stuff, I cannot understand why the key technical details were not put into the public domain right from the start.

Here is an interesting sequence of events, concerning one small element of the ICT infrastructure for NHS reform:

1) May 2002: EDS win £90 million 10 year contract to roll out email system for 500,000 staff.

2) March 2003: Sir John Pattison, Senior Responsible Owner, NHS Information Authority, announces that the project has been selected as one of the two best examples of ICT projects in the NHS.

3) March 2004: The contract is cancelled. NHS announces that EDS has been unacceptably slow in rolling out the system, which has been taken up by only 62,000 staff. EDS sue NHS for £11 million costs of development so far.

4) July 2004: Contract goes to C & W. EDS and NHS make out of court, confidential settlement with no attachment of blame to either party.

Meanwhile, the deckchairs keep being re-arranged on the Titanic:

1) The NHSIA has just been split in two, for reasons I do not yet understand.

2) A new body called the Care Record Development Board has just been announced. They are going to ask patients and clinical workers for input into the project, but the first conference takes place in November 2004. I have no idea what the point of this is, given that the specifications were all secretly finalised over a year ago, and the system is supposed to be up and running two years from now.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association, representing all the GPs in the UK, has announced it will boycott all work on the Care Records Service, since they resent the lack of consultation so far and do not trust the system to look after issues of patient confidentiality.

So, in the Universal Scenario of Project Failure, we have progressed as follows:

1) Ready, Fire, Aim.

2) Feeding Frenzy.

3) Party Time.

4) Disconnect and Distance are just getting going.

Everything is right on schedule! :-)



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