Dispatches C4 documentary programme on Monday 26 February on the NHS

This is the Channel Four press release for a documentary that is due to broadcast on 26 February. The film includes interviews with clinicians and others on the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT]


NHS: Where did all the money go?

Channel 4, 26th February 2007. 8pm

The Government has spent billions of extra pounds on the NHS. So why are hospitals and primary care trusts across the country now facing multi-million pound deficits? Why are patients being told the NHS is on “go-slow”? Why are increasing numbers of NHS-trained doctors and nurses unable to get jobs? Over the last five years, the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on the NHS has almost tripled. In this edition of Dispatches, award-winning journalist and economist Liam Halligan asks: “Where has all the money gone?”

Featuring two new in-depth national surveys on minimum waiting times and ward closures, this programme reveals how operations are being delayed and even cancelled to hit financial targets, costly IT systems are undermining patient safety and GPs have seen their salaries increase even though they no longer have to work ‘out-of-hours’.

The government has pumped billions into cancer care. But, as Dispatches reveals, patient recovery is being hampered by bureaucracy and delays in treatment. Two of the UK’s leading NHS cancer specialists tell the programme that while ministers have focused on targets for initial consultation and treatments, delays in post-operative follow-up radiotherapy pose threats to patient safety.

The government’s ambitious NHS IT revolution in the NHS is set to cost £12bn – more than four times the original estimate. The world’s largest civilian IT project, it is being overseen by the government body ‘Connecting for Health’. But as Dispatches reveals, one part of the project – an appointment-making service called Choose and Book – is so unpopular and unwieldy that many GPs refuse to use it. Two of the UK’s top NHS clinicians also speak out in the programme for the first time about how new child immunization software could lead to children’s health being put at risk.

One local GP working in a Primary Care Trust (PCT) with one of the worst deficits in the country tells Dispatches that steps taken by ministers so far seem to be compromising patient care rather than helping it. He shows Halligan a letter from his PCT listing hospital procedures which can no longer can be undertaken – a letter he finds ‘deeply offensive from both a clinical and a moral point of view’.

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I and others in suffolk coastal area have started signing on in desperation to various documentary channels - the subject, the cover up of dangerous GP care, complaints are not handled properly and the public and NHS fear complaint, I and others do not wish for compensation, just a fair service, evidence of this failure can be found on various documents, the scale of this is huge, lack of reporting to DoH for infectious diseases, lack of referral for cancers to hospital, near misses with children and worse. The complaint system all the way up to government level is a farce as i the fitness to practice sector of the GMC, we are left forwarding all mail to NHS exposed and GIllian Bean of Sin, our only support, thank heavens sights like abolish the GMC are starting to surface. By the way I have been a fan of the NHS my entire life and prior to a house move have never had the need for any form of complaint, only plenty of praise.

This was an excellent programme. Please can you next focus on the Independent Treatment Centres which provide shorter waiting lists but sacrifice quality of care.

Dear Sirs

As a GP of 20 years standing I was impressed by the accurate and balanced reporting of the NHS's financial problems. It was definitely the best I have seen in the media in recent months.

I have served under fundholding and with our PCT throughout several reorganisations. If Liam Halligan [presenter of the Dispatches documentary] would like detailed examples of how these endless reorganisations have stiffled real progress I would be happy to speak to him.