In defence of NPfIT's "owner" David Nicholson

David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, has his critics but they’d be on unsafe ground if they accused him of lacking passion – or of false modesty.

Normally, at any hearing of the Public Accounts Committee, the civil servants who have spent an hour or two being interrogated by MPs, are relieved when the chairman announces: “Thank you. That concludes our hearing.”  In the wood-panelled corridor outside the committee room, the civil service witnesses then joke sometimes among themselves about the questions they weren’t asked.  

David Nicholson is not like that. To his credit he takes his job extremely seriously: the Department of Health likes to choose as its leaders visionaries who will give passionate speeches in defence of whatever they’re responsible for. 

Which could explain why those appointed to run the NPfIT have spoken – and continue to speak – about the programme with a proselytizing passion that’s intolerant of criticism.   

Nicholson is not just a defender of the NPfIT. When Edward Leigh drew a recent Public Accounts Committee hearing to a close, Nicholson seemed reluctant to leave. He made a short uninvited speech.

Agenda for Change is a dry topic – it’s about standardizing the pay of NHS employees. But Nicholson brought the subject alive. He put Agenda for Change into planetary terms.  

“Can I finally say,” he said, “this was the biggest job evaluation and implementation scheme probably on the planet. It was remarkably successful …”

It’s not just the scheme that is successful. Surely it’s you, Mr Nicholson?