Don't scrap the NPfIT?

Martyn Thomas, who’s visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University Computing Laboratory, takes issue with my comment that too much has been spent on the NPfIT to scrap it.

He says:

“This is the ‘sunk value fallacy’ well known to economists. Popularly, it’s called throwing good money after bad.

“The right question, always, is ‘will the money that still has to be spent provide good value?’.

“With NPfIT, it seems no-one can be sure what the answer is – which is why you, and others, have repeatedly called for an open, technical, supportive, thorough review.”

He is right.

About £4bn has been spent on the NPfIT – but that doesn’t mean thelarge central infrastructure costs continue to be worthwhile. Or theadvance payments to some suppliers. Or the costs to the NHS ofpreparing for go-lives which don’t materialise. Or the tens of millionsof pounds spent hiring staff to help restore order after troubledgo-lives.

These are questions that could and should be answered by an independent, published review.

Ministersand the Department of Health have always refused to hold a review, a”hear-no-evil” attitude which highlights one the things thatdifferentiates public and private sector projects and programmes.Companies usually want to know:

– if a big project is in trouble
– if so, why
– if it should be abandoned.

Ministersand permanent secretaries usually want to know everything about bigprojects in their departments except the answer to these questions. And if they do find out they probably wouldn’twant anyone to know, particularly the opposition.

Thank you Martyn for pointing out what should have been obvious to me.


Can Brown or Cameron really make big IT cuts? – IT Projects blog

The NHS 23 still favour an independent review – BCS website

Martyn Thomas Associates

NHS IT wiki

How I got a job with Cerner – (US)