NHS IT Programme has been a scandalous waste for the NHS: a waste of money, and waste of time, and a wasted opportunity.
The Government announced this week that they will scale down the £12bn NHS IT programme. Alistair Darling said, “it was not essential for the front line.”
Local campaigner Dr Charles West has advised the NHS nationally on IT matters and was working full time in this field at the time the National Programme for IT in the NHS was set up.
Dr West said:
“They really haven’t a clue. The NHS IT programme was never about the needs of the NHS. It was politically driven, designed to meet the needs of Tony Blair not of the NHS. In 2002 when the Programme was announced we were told it would deliver four things in time for the 2005 General election. Those of us working in the field could see that of those four objectives two were impossible and the other two were were not a priority for the NHS. In the event, of course, none of the four items was delivered in time for Tony Blair to claim his success.
"When Richard Granger was appointed as the highest paid civil servant to run the project, he ignored or abolished the user groups and consultative committees that had been built up throughout the NHS. He employed instead his own advisers and large numbers of management consultants.
In 2006 when members of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee first examined the project, Richard Granger was able to pull the wool over their eyes and they did not realise the monumental wasted of money and the tragic wasted opportunity that this project was becoming.
"By January 2009 The Public Accounts committee realised that almost nothing was going according to plan. In February the Royal Free Hospital complained that their IT system was not only costing £10 million more than planned, it was running four years late and was harming patient care.
Dr West continued:
"The great tragedy is that so much could have been done. The NHS does need new IT systems.
“The NHS IT Programme should have adopted an incremental approach, using systems that had been tried and tested, setting standards for intercommunication and enabling links between Primary and Secondary Care. And, most importantly, it should have involved the users."
Normal Lamb, Liberal Democrat Health spokesman said:
“The NHS IT programme has been disastrously flawed from the start.
“Labour has been in denial for years and this is a belated and partial recognition of the scale of their failure,"
“This whole programme has been disastrously flawed from the start. It has held back the development of IT at a local level, cost billions and is running years behind schedule. Labour has been in denial for years and this is a belated and partial recognition of the scale of their failure. The truth is that the National Programme should be abandoned in its entirety, subject to existing contractual obligations, and instead we should start building from the bottom.”
Dr Charles West
Parliamentary Candidate: Shrewsbury and Atcham Liberal Democrats