IT Projects – The Last Labour Government – The Failures – The Cost of Writes Off To The Taxpayer – We Must Not Get Stung Again


The last Labour government embarked on the introduction of many weird and wonderful IT systems all with the purpose of establishing centralised control of information about each and every person in the UK. Just about every scheme failed resulting in the writes off of about £100 million. Be assured Labour politicians are centralisers by nature and in the event the Party is elected to office in May 2015 many more daft projects and subsequent writes off will occur. The largesse of a Labour government can be effectively neutered by a large number of SNP MP’s who with influence on government will be able to ensure proper accountability so that developments are thought through and implemented efficiently.

waste of money

1. December 8 2003; Reid Announces £2.7 billion of NHS IT contracts

a. Health Secretary John Reid today announced the award of contracts, which he promised would lead to every NHS patient having their own individual electronic NHS Care Record by 2010. The pledge came on the day the Department of Health announced the award of three crucial contracts, worth a total of £2.7 billion, to deliver key components of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in England. He added: “Patient records will be available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that vital information about an individual’s health and care history can be available instantly to health professionals who have authorised access.”

b. Under the contract BT is to provide basic NHS Care Records by late 2004. The national record system is to be fully available by 2010. By then individual patients will be able to securely access their electronic records online. NHS IT director-general Richard Granger, said he anticipated patients should start to be able to access their records online long before 2010. “We anticipate that getting internet access to records will happen far before that… We’re still working out the detail but at the moment we predict Q4, 2004.”

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2. April 1 2005; NHS Connecting for Health (CFH) Agency (part of the UK Department of Health) formed Replacing the NHS Information Authority

a. Part of the Department of Health Informatics Directorate, with the role to maintain and develop the NHS national IT infrastructure. It adopted the responsibility of delivering the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), an initiative by the Department of Health in England to move the National Health Service (NHS) in England towards a single, centrally-mandated electronic care record for patients and to connect 30,000 General practitioners to 300 hospitals, providing secure and audited access to these records by authorised health professionals.


3. September 4 2006; New inquiry into Troubled NHS IT upgrade – Auditors to launch yet another inquiry into the NHS IT upgrade project.

a. The National Audit Office only reported in June on the scheme to link 30,000 GPs with 300 hospitals in England. The programme, run by a government agency called Connecting for Health, has proved controversial, with a cost over-run of £4.1 billion. The original NAO report criticised delays in the project and said it was facing a challenging future, but was not as hard-hitting as expected.

b. Last month, the BBC revealed that a number of alterations had been made to the original draft after it was circulated to officials involved in the 10-year project. The NAO insisted the overall findings had not been changed amid criticism from opposition MPs. The project has also been dogged by criticisms from doctors, who say they were not consulted properly and that the new systems are a risk to patient confidentiality. These systems include an online booking system, a centralised medical records system for 50m patients, e-prescriptions and fast computer network links between NHS organisations. The NAO said the exact remit and timescale of the new investigation had not been decided yet. “When we published the report we said we may revisit it and that is what we are doing,” said a spokesperson.

c. MPs said the announcement was welcome after the controversy over the last report. Greg Clark, of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “We felt the original report raised more questions than it answered. “We will be following this with interest.”

d. A spokeswoman for Connecting for Health said the agency had always expected another inquiry and it would “co-operate fully”. Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: “Ministers are taking an utterly complacent view when the IT programme is running two years late and there are major question marks over the delivery of software and effective user involvement.”


4. September 29 2006; Little delay’ to NHS IT upgrade

a. The upgrading of NHS computers will not see “significant” delays despite a firm pulling out of most of its work on the project, the government has said. Accenture has handed over £1.9bn of its contracts to the US company Computer Sciences Corporation. It is the latest hitch for the £6.2bn Connecting for Health programme which saw delays following problems at another contractor, iSoft. But Health Minister Lord Warner denied the scheme had suffered a “huge blow”. Connecting for Health aims to link more than 30,000 GPs with nearly 300 hospitals by 2014. Lord Warner told BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight: “We cannot expect a 10-year programme on this scale… a massive civilian project, to actually never have any hiccups along the way.” But he stressed: “I don’t believe this will mean any significant delay. CSC have got a good track record…”I would expect there to be a smooth transfer of responsibilities.”

b. Accenture had responsibility for the roll-out in the North East and East of England but is making big losses on the work and faced fines for late delivery. However, the firm will keep responsibility for other parts of the NHS programme.

c. The Conservatives have called for the project to be reconsidered. Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien said Accenture’s withdrawal poses “embarrassing questions” for Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt. “With Accenture – the most experienced of the primary contractors saying they are going to cut their losses – that seriously undermines confidence in the whole programme,” he said.

d. Last week, the magazine Computer Weekly reported there had been 110 major technical glitches to the project in last four months. Connecting for Health said the performance compared “favourably” with the IT provisions of other large-scale organisations.


5. November 12 2006; Health service IT boss ‘failed computer studies’- His Mum reveals all

a. The expert in charge of the government’s ailing £12bn computer modernisation programme for the NHS might expect to face criticism from IT experts, disgruntled doctors and even political opponents. But this weekend, it was his own mother who revealed he failed his university computer studies course.

b. Richard Granger, the tough 42-year-old management consultant who runs the government’s Connecting for Health project, initially failed his computer studies course at Bristol University – and took a year off as a result. He was only allowed to resit the exam after she appealed on his behalf, and he went on to gain a 2:2 in geology.

c. His mother, Mary Granger, spoke to The Observer about her surprise at her son’s role in the ambitious initiative that was supposed to transform the NHS’s computers and allow patient records to be kept electronically. She hasn’t spoken to her son for 10 years after a family row, but she is now campaigning to save the local hospital in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, which is losing some services to another local trust, and believes the computer modernisation plans are a gross waste of money. ‘I can’t believe that my son is running the IT modernisation programme for the whole of the NHS,’ she said.


6. January 27 2009 Public Accounts Committee Investigation – Project over-run £9.7 billion

a. The National Health Service (NHS) needs modern Information Technology (IT) to help it to provide high quality services to patients. The National Programme for IT in the NHS (“the Programme” or NPfIT) was set up to provide such services, using centrally managed procurement to provide impetus to the uptake of IT and to secure economies of scale. It constitutes the largest single IT investment in the UK to date, with expenditure on the Programme revised upwards to £12.4 billion over ten years to 2013–14. In summary, we draw four overall conclusions:

i. The piloting and deployment of the shared electronic patient clinical record is already running two years behind schedule. In the meantime the Department has been deploying patient administration systems to help Trusts urgently requiring new systems, but these systems are not a substitute for the vision of a shared electronic patient clinical record and no firm plans have been published for deploying software to achieve this vision.

ii. The suppliers to the Programme are clearly struggling to deliver, and one of the largest, Accenture, has now withdrawn. The Department is unlikely to complete the Programme anywhere near its original schedule.

iii. The Department has much still to do to win hearts and minds in the NHS, especially among clinicians. It needs to show that it can deliver on its promises, supply solutions that are fit for purpose, learn from its mistakes, respond constructively to feedback from users in the NHS, and win the respect of a highly skilled and independently minded workforce.

iv. Four years after the start of the Programme, there is still much uncertainty about the costs of the Programme for the local NHS and the value of the benefits it should achieve.


7. September 22 2011; £12bn NHS computer system is scrapped… and it’s all YOUR money that Labour poured down the drain

a. Ministers are to axe Labour’s disastrous £12billion NHS computer scheme. The Coalition will today announce it is putting a halt to years of scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money on a system that never worked. It will cut its losses and ‘urgently’ dismantle the National Programme for IT – a monument to Whitehall folly during Labour’s 13 years in power. The biggest civilian IT project of its kind in the world, it has already squandered at least £12.7billion. Some estimates put the cost far higher. Analysts say the sum would have paid the salaries of more than 60,000 nurses for a decade.

b. The decision to accelerate the dismantling of the scheme has been made by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office. It follows new advice produced by the Major Projects Authority, set up by the Coalition to review Labour’s big financial commitments to see if they provide value for money. The authority said the IT scheme, set up in 2002, is not fit to provide services to the NHS – which as part of austerity measures has to make savings of £20billion by 2014/15. It concluded: ‘There can be no confidence that the programme has delivered or can be delivered as originally conceived.’ The report, seen by the Mail, recommends the Government should ‘dismember the programme and reconstitute it under new management and organisation arrangements’. The NHS computer scheme will go down as one of the most egregious examples of Labour’s incompetence and waste

c. Earlier this year, the powerful Commons public accounts committee slammed Labour’s NHS IT programme as ‘unworkable’. Its report said that despite the huge cost, it had ‘proved beyond the capacity of the Department to deliver, and the Department is no longer delivering a universal system’. And in May, the National Audit Office criticised the project for being poor value for money, patchy and long overdue.

ed and jim

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