Courting failure - using an IT programme to bring about changes that have not been agreed

This is one of a series on this blog of some of more memorable comments made by witnesses and MPs at an inquiry into the National Programme for IT [NPfIT] by the Health Committee of the House of Commons.

The witnesses at the first hearing on 26 April 2007 were:

– Richard Granger, Director General of IT for the NHS and head of the NPfIT

– Harry Cayton, National Director for Patients and the Public, Department of Health

– Dr Gillian Braunold, a GP and National Clinical Lead for GPs, Connecting for Health.

Martyn Thomas, visiting Professor of Software Engineering, University of Oxford,

Dr Paul Cundy, Chair, General Practitioners’ Joint IT Committee

Andrew Hawker, NHS Patient

A list of who is on the committee is at the end of this article.

At the Health Committee hearing Martyn Thomas said:

“It seems to me that there are two issues that are being run together here. The overall objectives of the system seem to be trying to tackle two problems in parallel and those two issues are perhaps in conflict.

“On the one hand, there is the question of putting in good IT to support the clinicians supporting the patients, and I think everybody in the NHS is entirely behind that. Where IT can improve healthcare, it is sensible to deploy it once you are in a position to be able to be able to roll it out without disturbing things too much.

There is also the issue of transforming the way that the Health Service operates and the way that the Health Service is managed and the need for information to be available in order to be able to change the management structures.

“I suspect that there are a lot of stakeholders throughout the Health Service who are resistant to the notion of change of management. That would be absolutely normal in any large organisation.

“Bringing those two things together and trying to use the IT programme as a facilitator for bringing about managerial and organisational changes that have not already been agreed is, in my experience, never successful.”


Membership of the House of Commons’ Health Committee

Kevin Barron, Labour, Rother Valley – Chairman

Mr David Amess, Conservative, Southend West

Charlotte Atkins, Labour, Staffordshire Moorlands

Mr Ronnie Campbell, Labour, Blyth Valley

Jim Dowd, Labour, Lewisham West

Sandra Gidley, Liberal Democrat, Romsey

Stewart Jackson, Conservative, Peterborough

Dr Doug Naysmith, Labour/Co-operative, Bristol North West

Mike Penning, Conservative, Hemel Hempstead

Dr Howard Stoate, Labour, Dartford

Dr Richard Taylor, Independent, Wyre Forest