Opinion

Criticism and opportunity for NHS IT

Five years into the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) a Public Accounts Committee report has depicted the scheme as a failure.

It is important to remember that this report is from a Labour-dominated committee, and its credibility and accuracy have been checked by the National Audit Office.

The report's generally hostile tone should come as no surprise. Computer Weekly warned in early 2002, when the NPfIT was announced, that it was overly ambitious. But government departments rarely listen to those they arrogantly dismiss as nay-sayers. They fix on a good idea then surround themselves with suppliers and others who will support it.

To counter this dangerous lack of challenge, Computer Weekly has shone a light into some dark corners over the years. We have often been criticised for doing so.

But the Public Accounts Committee goes far beyond any of our criticism.

The problems are not the fault of the IT specialists, executives and clinicians who have tried to make a success of local implementations - there have been some islands of success. What has failed is the process. Accountability has been, for all practical purposes, non-existent.

The worst that can happen now is for the government and the Department of Health to go where they feel most comfortable: into denial mode. The committee's report is a force for good, a motivation for change. It is an opportunity for a radical rethink.

For the sake of patients, taxpayers and the NHS, the programme's remaining £10bn must be spent with only care and treatment in mind. It should not be wasted on trying to prove that the original scheme was sound after all.

Further reading 

Tony Collins' project management blog

Recent developments in the NHS National Programme for IT




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This was first published in April 2007

 

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