Yesterday [9 May 2007] Computer Weekly won the magazine world’s “Oscar” for campaigning journalism, over our fight for an independent and published review of the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT].
Judges said that Computer Weekly’s work on the NPfIT represented “outstanding investigative journalism in the face of intransigence” which referred to the government’s repeated refusal to commission and publish in full an independent review of the programme.
There were 139 judges for the award categories. The “Magazines 2007” Periodical and Publishers Association awards took place at the Grosvenor House hotel in Park Lane.
The citation for the Editorial Campaign of the Year category said: “With the assistance of their readers and industry experts, Computer Weekly identified problems with the NHS IT programme, the world’s largest civilian IT initiative – despite NHS officials and Government’s insisting it was on track for success.” The judges said that Computer Weekly has a “practical impact on issues rather than just writes about them”.
It also commended Computer Weekly’s “constructive engagement of other interested parties” which “galvanised support from academia in the industry”.
We’ve set a record for campaigning journalism. In five of the last seven years we have won the Editorial Campaign of the Year. It’s also the first time a magazine has won the Editorial Campaign for the Year award twice on the same subject. In 2004, for our work on the NPfIT, judges said we had “battled against a strong climate of secrecy and suppression of dissent”.
This year, as in previous years, there were strong contenders for the campaign award. This was the shortlist:
Action on depression – Pulse
Challenging age discrimination – People Management
Charter for change – Nursing Standard
“Just say no” sex education campaign – COSMOgirl.
Local food is miles better – Farmers Weekly
Take retail crime seriously – Retail Week
Time to Care – The Times Educational Supplement
The campaign continues.
This is because the NPfIT in our view remains on the critical list. Members of the Association for Project Management said at a round-table discussion that for major programmes to succeed there needs to be short clear objectives. There aren’t on the NHS programme.
There also needs to be open and honest debate of the problems. The government doesn’t want this – honest criticism is regarded as uninformed cavilling – and ministers are not prepared to admit there have been mistakes.
There needs to be a genuinely independent review of the NPfIT that is published in full. The government doesn’t want this either.
There needs to be publication of “gateway reviews” of the project so that the NHS can see the programme’s strengths and weaknesses. The government has refused to publish them.
This minimalist approach to accountability is not good enough on a programme that may cost £12.4bn and may improve patient care – but may also cause harm.