NHS IT leader set for new Whitehall contracts role

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NHS IT leader set for new Whitehall contracts role

Tony Collins
Richard Granger, director general of IT in the NHS, is being lined up for a new role in government after awarding contracts worth £6.2bn in record time.

Computer Weekly has learned that he is being considered for a new role which could include helping to run major procurements across departments, as the government seeks to cut costs in central administration.

Granger is known to have the full backing of Tony Blair, with whom he meets regularly. In recent months ministers have profusely praised his performance.

Last month at the Healthcare Computing conference 2004, John Hutton, the minister in charge of the IT-led modernisation of the NHS, said, "NHS IT has come quite a long way. The next generation of IT systems have been successfully let on time and to budget and that has been a major achievement... how enormously grateful I am to my excellent team of officials who have made this happen, ably led by Richard Granger."

Granger told the conference. "We have set the benchmark, the standard against which other public sector IT procurements are going to be measured globally. We certainly set the standard against which the Office of Government Commerce is going to establish new contract terms and conditions, and procurement arrangements nationally."

The NHS IT chief said his team had achieved "order of magnitude" savings in the price of some systems and made a commodity item of patient record software.

If Granger is appointed to a cross-departmental role he could still be involved with the NHS, but responsibility for implementing the contracts he has put in place would fall mainly to Aidan Halligan, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health.

Since the award of national systems contracts in December and January, Granger is seen as having moved into the wider role of representing UK government and commercial interests abroad. Two weeks ago he went to China, on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He also attended a health IT conference in Florida.

A spokesman for the national programme made no comment when asked whether Granger was interested in the job of chief information officer for the UK government. He was more forth-coming when asked about a wider procurement role for Granger.

"The Office of Government Commerce has been working with procurement experts from the national programme to draw on the experience gained from the programme. This is normal and is part of work that has been ongoing for some time around renewal of standard terms and conditions for the next generation of government contracts," he said.

Granger's US visit was focused on sharing activities that are established in the UK and the US and the visit to China was centred on a transfer of solutions into its market place, said the spokesman.

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