“A recession-hit Treasury in search of savings may even now be casting a beady eye on Connecting for Health‘s billions.”
Michael White is a much-respected political commentator and Assistant Editor (politics) for The Guardian. He is to political journalism what Big Ben is to Radio 4. He writes a regular column for the Health Service Journal, the latest of which is devoted to IT in the NHS. It’s clear he has taken soundings from various MPs and officials, and perhaps ministers.
He says: “The word on the health street is that, whatever they cautiously say for public consumption, ministers and senior officials are seriously worried about their ambitious NHS Connecting for Health IT plans.”
“You were probably far too busy to notice Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg urging Gordon Brown the other day to ‘distinguish between good public spending and bad public spending… By not wasting £13bn on an NHS computer system that doesn’t work’.
“A straw in the wind, but a potentially significant straw. The word on the health street is that, whatever they cautiously say for public consumption, ministers and senior officials are seriously worried about their ambitious NHS Connecting for Health IT plans. As you probably did have time to register, such concerns surfaced on page one of the Financial Times last week. HSJ has also raised the alarm about the slowing pace of progress … Some of my usual contacts have not rushed to call me back on this one…
“Outside Westminster a well informed source tells me he hears it’s ‘in real trouble’ – not just in the South either – not least because the technology has moved on.
“That translates as meaning that software to allow previously incompatible systems to talk to each other now exists to render the centralised CfH vision unnecessary. But, as so often in such chats, my source adds ‘I don’t understand the technology.’ Few do.
“The official position from the Department of Health, the NHS Confederation and CfH seems to be that – as with Wembley stadium – it is better to be late and right than on time and wrong like Heathrow’s Terminal 5. There is stock-taking, a hiatus, assorted problems, but it ain’t dead yet, they all say…
“What to do? With ministers citing commercial confidentiality to avoid debate and accountability Mr O’Brien [Conservative Health Minister] has raised some private funding to conduct an independent review, chaired by Glyn Hayes, ex-chair of the British Computing Society.
“Their goal: to rescue the project. But everyone agrees that a recession-hit Treasury in search of savings may even now be casting a beady eye on CfH’s billions.”
Conservatives have independent review of the NPfIT – Computer Weekly, August 2008
London’s mental health trusts reap benefits of NHS IT – Health Service Journal, October 2008
UK’s runaway project – US blog
The 10 projects at the heart of the NPfIT – Silicon.com