Bow Group Health & Education Policy Committee Backs Call to Pull Plug on Labour’s Shambolic NHS IT Labyrinth

Health
Saturday, August 6, 2011

On 3rd August 2011, the Public Accounts Committee published its report on the National Programme for IT in the NHS.  In doing so, the Committee highlighted the catastrophic and atrophic failure of the previous Labour Government’s hopelessly inadequate NHS IT policy.  Billions of taxpayer pounds have been earmarked for a computer system for health records for patients in England, but it is increasingly clear the scheme is unworkable and in a state of absolute chaos.  The Bow Group Health & Education Committee is therefore supporting the Public Accounts Committee’s call for as much of the remaining £4.3 billion to be spent elsewhere in an already cash-strapped NHS.     Labour’s disastrous NHS IT system is something the Bow Group previously identified in August 2010 in response to the Coalition Government’s White Paper and as outlined in the Health & Education Policy Committee’s target policy paper, ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS – Opportunities and Challenges’.  Commenting on the scheme as an example of Government waste and shocking value, the Bow Group said:    “…the trumpeting legacy of arguably one of the greatest white elephants of all time, the ramshackle and dysfunctional maze that is Labour’s NHS IT system, is an acute case in point. The NHS National Programme for IT was initially expected to cost £2.3 billion over three years. However, the National Audit Office found that costs had spiralled to £12.4 billion over ten years concluding that “[the IT system] had not demonstrated that the financial value of the benefits exceeds the cost of the Programme.”  It is little wonder that there is so much waste across Government departments when the applied definition of value and innovation has in too many cases been so bluntly one-dimensional” (Bow Group Target Paper, ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS – Opportunities and Challenges’, page 20, 18th August 2010).    Stuart Carroll, Chairman of the Bow Group’s Health & Education Policy Committee, said:    “I am pleased to see the Public Accounts Committee publish a strong report on this important issue, which underlines the extent of Labour’s breathtakingly bad NHS IT policy.  As the Bow Group highlighted last year, this is another glaring example of the previous Labour Government’s extraordinary profligacy and incomprehensible incompetence, and something worryingly reminiscent of an episode out of ‘Yes Prime Minister’.  Although the current Coalition Government has inherited a scrapheap mess with NHS IT contracts that cannot be legally broken, I earnestly encourage Andrew Lansley to do all he can to minimise the financial carnage and to save as much as possible from Labour’s appalling computer wreckage.  Although the 4th largest organisation on the planet clearly needs good IT systems and must seek to utilise sound technology at all times, there is a strong case for the DH to cut their losses on this ramshackle and instead allow individual trusts to develop their own patient record systems to a benchmark of required standards to foster compatibility across the system, and to ensure Richmond House can focus on other more pressing issues.  Never again must the NHS be subjected to such egregiously bad policymaking, awful procurement and chaotic implementation”.            The Bow Group Health & Education Policy Committee has lent its broad support to 2020health’s report, ‘Fixing NHS IT: A Plan of Action for a New Government’, which details a number of sensible recommendations to overcome prevailing problems.     For more information on the Bow Group Health & Education Policy Committee, please contact Stuart Carroll on health.policy@thebowgroup.org.