Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Look On My Works And Despair

Health Minister Lord Warner today admitted what we all worked out months ago: the massively expensive NHS super-computer is massively behind schedule, and massively unwanted by those it was meant to serve.

He's reiterated that the National Programme for IT- the biggest civilian IT programme the world has ever seen - will cost about £20bn, rather than the £6.2bn originally advertised. "The latter figure covered only the national contracts for the systems' basic infrastructure and software applications. Hospitals and other parts of the NHS would, however, spend billions more on training staff, buying PCs and upgrading and assimilating existing systems over the decade-long programme."

He reckons some parts of the programme "are going pretty well and pretty much to time". But others, he admits, "are going more slowly than we would otherwise like". Overall, he reckons it's two and a half years behind schedule.

Translation: our crack team of project facilitators has agreed on an exciting new logo for the programme and we've already drafted a 400 page cultural diversity protocol; but for some reason the dratted thing itself doesn't work, and nobody has the faintest idea when or if it will ever be finished.

Naturally he's trying to shift as much blame as possible onto others: in this case the GPs, who for some strange reason haven't being showing much enthusiasm for uploading their confidential patient records onto an unreliable hackers' delight like the NPfIT (see the good Doc Crippen for a good deal more colour on that - it makes him quite dispeptic).

Of course, Warner's £20bn figure is still way short of the true number. As we blogged back in January, the overall cost is thought by insiders to be heading for £50bn. Making this the most expensive government grandiosity since the Pyramids. Except this one won't generate any tourism revenue.

PS Who exactly is Lord Norman Warner? Yes we know he used to be head of Kent Social Services, and has chaired all manner of quango type stuff. But who is he really? All I've been able to discover is that he was Barbara Castle's Private Secretary during Wislon's disastrous regime.


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