The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has issued a damning report into the NHS's overdue and over budget National Programme for IT (NPfIT). The group of MPs conclude that the system is late, suppliers are struggling to deliver, medical staff are sceptical of the entire project, and there is still no clear idea of how much it will …
I agree it should be condemned
Having worked on the data spine of the NPfIT project I can safely say it is the biggest white elephant ever, and will cost this country a lot more than £12bn.
Something as simple as the networking is so completely screwed up that even a time-synchronisation between all the servers is nigh on impossible, many of which are adrift by several minutes, some by over an hour and many others in-between these two figures. If something like time-sync that cannot be done correctly can you imagine what other horrors await!!!!
There are many other examples of poor and unsafe design in the whole estate but I hesitate to mention them for fear of causing major panic in the IT community ;-)
I for one will be writing to my GP informing him that I do not wish to have my health records held on the system.
Too late to condemn the project?
The funds are committed, much infrastructre is in place to deliver the services to the desktop, but I agree with the previous poster - there are serious issues with data mapping, getting dispirate systems talking to each other. etc (I could go on
However, the biggest issue seems to be a reluctance to change within NHS bodies. The usual attitude of "if it's not broken why fix it?" seems to pervade NHS bodies. There is also a great issue with protectionism - IT depts looking after their own domains (forgive the pun).
However these naive people do not appreciate what the system will deliver - a generic health record available all over the country, much improved security, etc.
The "Holy Grail" is a unified, national system, but the contractors appear to have seriously underestimated the work needed to achieve this.
problems solved elsewhere
The problems that _need_ solving have been solved elsewhere. Look at the PD and GPL'd Vista software (and its PD and GPL'd interface for Windows or Wine - CPRS) and the GPL'd GT.M that it can run on over the GPL'd Linux. After a few decades, that large suite of complex applications is reasonably understood, has a support ecology that is capable of being extended rather than having to be instantiated in place from nothing, and has fewer bugs than most new programs. It also has extensive testing in the wards and clinics, and nice touches like a prescribing and dispensing system that NHS wards would benefit from rapidly - it matches drug to patient to prescription using bar codes on each.
The cost and effort would be large, but implementation in Mexico is not projected to cost anywhere near the NPfIT/CfH/this week's acronym est^U^U^Ufantasy.
Try http://worldvista.org http://hardhats.org
If you are a health service requiring tested software at minimum cost, come to the OSHCA confernece in Kuala Lumpur, and talk about it.
What exactly will the system deliver ?
There is always resistance to change, as a contractor in the programming business myself, I have learned that thoroughly.
However, if this so-called system is just a time sieve and money sink that cannot bring any useful functionality and improvement (remember, IT is supposed to IMPROVE on existing procedures, not degrade them), then there really is no point in supporting it.
When a good horse gets its leg broke, it has to be shot - no matter if its a thoroughbred or a workhorse. This, apparently, isn't even a good horse, even though it cost a good deal more.
So shoot it already, it's time to move on.
Indeed the networking is broken
I well remember a meeting in London 2 years ago. N3 (The "new" NHS National Network) was the topic, and central to much of the discussion was the fact that the contract with BT had under-specified the bandwidth needed for electronic transfer of imaging data (known as PACS). One of the guys from Connecting for Health said they were asking the imaging system suppliers to reduce the size of the files...... Errrr.... Only way to reduce the size of image data is to compress it.... Compression loses data..... this might be fine for your snap of the Eiffel Tower but is not acceptable for medical imaging.
If this is the standard of understanding of the needs of medical computing across the board in NPfIT, as I fear it might be, then the whole project has been doomed from day one.
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