Wednesday, 24 June 2009

OGC publishes Gateway Reviews on NHS IT Programme

(By Richard Holway 4.00pm 24th June 09) For all followers of the ‘fortunes’ of the NHS IT system, the publication of 31 Gateway reviews on the NHS IT system under the Freedom of information Act is a welcome move. All credit to Tony Collins for getting the Govt to relent. The FT today carries a summary of the findings Warnings ignored over NHS IT system, a much fuller critique is on Tony Collins IT Blog and the full monty on the Connecting for Health website.

I’m not overly sure that the release of these papers gives us that much more insight than what we had surmised before. They basically say that there were significant doubts about the viability of the project, and some of its suppliers, right from the start. It also implies that much of the project was governed by political dictate from ‘Number Ten’.

I long believed that Richard Granger’s initial objective was, first and foremost, to run a procurement process rather than a success implementation. Indeed, that was my view from the many conversations I had with Granger in the early stages of the project. I think Granger thought he’d be promoted out of that role long before anything was due for delivery. All these Gateway reviews bear that out. By the objectives presented to Granger, the procurement was ‘successful’. Indeed ‘too successful’ as it contributed towards the failure of the project – in particular it selected users on price rather than competence/experience, it screwed suppliers to such an extent that two of the most significant ones walked away. And, most significantly, it failed to engage with users. I don’t think anyone thought that would be necessary in the procurement process- as in talking to the users would get in the way and slow things down (my words, not theirs!) That the dictate that “There shalt be one and only one system per region’ meant that many of the existing/regional suppliers were abandoned – or put into the wilderness for years. This was a huge mistake.

We made many of these points ourselves from the early stages of the project – so it is not surprising to learn that they are echoed in the Gateway reviews.

I guess where we differed from others was in our belief that the aims of much of the NHS IT project were ‘worthy’ (we’ve never been a supporter of the ‘Choose & Book’ bit though) and that ultimately its successful implementation would be to all our benefit. And, bluntly, we are still of that view.

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