Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Why Can't Governments do IT?

The NHS IT scandal is one which never fails tom take away one's breath. The idea was to create a nationwide system of computerised records for the 55 million NHS patients. According to the Public Accounts Committee, the project, despite costing nearly £12bn and already nine years in, is 'unable to demonstrate' any benefit to the taxpayer.

It seems shed-loads of cash were spent on consultants. Apart from straightforward incompetence BT, one of the contractors involved was selling systems to NHS sites for £9m while hospitals were receiving the same kit for only £2m.

It's so strange as when I visit my GP he is able to check my records- formerly contained in a fat buff envelope- on his computer screen; so why can't all these GP systems be linked up? Moreover, when a huge store like Tesco can track tins how many tins of salmon are held in stores in Edinburgh or Manchester, why on earth can't a hugely funded national system of patient records be constructed? One of the reasons i never supported an identity cards system was because I feared a similar humungous cock-up would be made of the related IT systems.

It's the same inability as the Ministry of Defence displays - poor, usually appalling, specification of user requirements; inability to freeze the specification and apply adequate change control; a combination of dishonest budgeting (under costing to get it through) and incompetent financial controls once the project has started. All this 'managed' by useless project staff and by civil service generalists who are manipulated by the consultants and contractors; this is the charitable view - others might smell rats in the revolving doors between the civil service and its contractors.
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