£26bn of botched IT good for consultants, says The Independent

An investigation into Labour’s botched IT-based projects and programmes by The Independent is the subject of the newspaper’s lead article today.

It says that a series of botched IT projects has left “taxpayers with a bill of more than £26bn for computer systems that have suffered severe delays, run millions of pounds over budget or have been cancelled altogether”.

The newspaper quotes me as saying that Labour had displayed an irrational exuberance on some IT projects, which has led to good money being thrown after bad. Labour’s hierarchy has regarded IT as a talisman when there’s nothing magical about it.

The Independent said that the total cost of Labour’s 10 most notorious IT failures is “equivalent to more than half of the budget for Britain’s schools last year”.

BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme drew attention to The Independent’s investigation.

The newspaper says in an editorial that when historians come to compile their tomes on this present government’s domestic record, one achievement will stand out: services to the IT sector.


“All this spending has been wonderful for IT consultants. The trouble is that the public, who as taxpayers have been funding for it, have been considerably less well served.

“From the malfunctioning passports system to the unwieldy NHS supercomputer, ministers have been responsible for presiding over one expensive IT disaster after another.

“The words ‘T’ are commonly associated with modernity, progress and efficiency. And this is no doubt why ministers and civil servants so readily and unquestioningly commissioned such lavish projects. Yet what they have evidently been buying all these years is not any of these things but good old-fashioned snake oil,” says The Independent’s editorial.

The projects named by the newspaper include the £12.7bn NPfIT NHS IT scheme, a £350m IT-based Single Payment Scheme for farmers, the £513m “C-Nomis” system for prisons and the probation service, the £447m Libra scheme for magistrates’ courts. The Independent also quotes the £5bn ID Cards scheme.

In a separate article on the NPfIT, the newspaper says that doctors’ illegible notes will be in use for years.

“For the past 30 years the NHS has been trying to modernise itscommunications and update its computer systems and each time it hasended in disaster and cost millions.

“The latest attempt, a £12.7bnproject to link the country’s 35,000 GPs with 300 hospitals and provideelectronic versions of all patient medical records, has been similarlyblighted by delays, cost overruns and cancelled contracts.

“Tony Blair, then prime minister, declared in 1997 that the electronicrecord would mean that if you live in Birmingham and have an accidentwhile you are, for example, in Bradford, it should be possible for yourrecords to be instantly available to the doctors treating you.

“Theplan nearly foundered because of fears about confidentiality. TheBritish Medical Association insisted patients must give explicitconsent to having their records posted online. That dispute wasresolved when it was agreed patients would be asked at eachconsultation if the clinician could look at their record.

“But the programme has since been beset by technical difficulties withconnecting so many disparate users. The NHS is the largest employer inEurope, dealing with millions of patients each day and poses one of thetoughest IT challenges in the world.

“The original aim was for the systems to be complete by 2010. Smallerinstallations have gone reasonably well but the major city hospitalshave proved too big a nut to crack. Today’s figures revealing just 160organisations operating the electronic record – most of them GPpractices – shows just how far there is still to go. That well-thumbedpacket of barely legible doctors’ notes will be with us for years yet.”

Links:

Labour’s computer blunders cost £26bn – The Independent

Is the NPfIT running out of money? – IT Projects Blog

Doctors’ illegible notes will be with us for years – The Independent

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Why is it, that from central Government to local Town and County Councils they all seem incapable of drawing up contracts, which state, ‘Payment Only Upon Completion and to the Payees Satisfaction’?

Why whenever it’s ‘Taxpayers Money’ are there none if any safe guards on costs spiraling beyond the original estimate?

The manner in which this country governs the expenditure of the ‘Taxpayers Money’ is wholly and utterly unacceptable and bordering on what may well be considered as criminally incompetent.

Signed Carl Barron Chairman of agpcuk

http://disqus.com/Carl_Barron/

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What about the BSF project?

Please i would like someone to come to a BSF school and see what the goverment is doing...

A complete disaster, waste, corruption, etc ,etc....

Panorama should be investigating this...

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If we can have an Iraq War inquiry then why not a NPfIT inquiry as well? £12.7bn is a disgrace, and what is more worrying is that the actual final figure will probably be in excess of that anyway.

Keeping with the Iraq theme, last year The Independent (them again?) discussed whether it would be wiser to spend the cost of maintaining a presence in Iraq on the NHS budget instead, (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/1631bnayear-cost-of-war-in-iraq-would-be-better-spent-on-nhs-hospitals-439988.html)

I'd suggest the answer to the question would depend entirely on where in the NHS budget the money was being spent. I'm increasingly confident that the NPfIT would not be the popuilar choice of the public.

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We've asked for an NPfIT inquiry, and so have leading academics. The Government has always refused. Governments will only voluntarily set up an inquiry when they're confident of its conclusions. With the NPfIT, ministers know they won't like the outcome of an inquiry.

Governments are only really accountable in the run up to a general election. After that they can, it seems, do what they like.

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How has it taken 13 years to spot the obvious.

This Government is just a bunch of gadget freaks, mesmerised by anything with the letters IT attached to it. They've been like this from the very beginning and it didn't take much foresight to see the path they were heading down. Nobody has mentioned (in this blog) the £1500 laptops for the poor scheme - it's all part of the same blind pusuit of shiny new things.

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