A former Whitehall official has revealed that he and his colleagues were given 10 minutes to make the case to the prime minister over what became the world's biggest civil IT-based modernisation programme.
The disclosure was made by John Pattison, who was headquarters director of research and e-champion at the Department of Health. He was speaking on Radio 4's "Wiring the NHS" documentary on the £12.4bn National Programme for IT, to which Computer Weekly contributed.
Pattison told the BBC that he was invited to Number 10 in February 2002 to a seminar on IT where he and his colleagues were "given 10 minutes to make the case" for a national programme.
Pattison told the BBC:
"They invited us to a seminar on it in number 10 and we were given 10 minutes to make the case We quickly came down to suggestions for the four elements that should be developed in the first phase: first of all a platform, a solid dependable network, connecting up all parts of the NHS and top of that platform three specifics:
- one, an electronic patient record
- two, electronic booking of appointments
- and the third was electronic prescribing."
He said that cost of the NPfIT was "staggering" and that the benefits were "huge."
Paul Cundy, co-chair of the joint General Practitioners Committee and Royal College of General Practitioners IT Group, said of the meeting at Downing Street, "The programme was very ambitious. That is because of the level at which it was pitched - the famous Tony Blair sofa meeting. It was given a ludicrously tight timescale."