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Tory MP for Hove Mike Weatherley has been bombarding the Ministry of Health with questions on its technology spending, but he's having mixed success. The first effort on Tuesday asked for a percentage of NHS IT spending which went on online services, a percentage of spending on technology which could only be maintained by its …

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Anonymous Coward

Thats bollocks

Where are BT in that list? They have by far the biggest contracts with CfH...some how I don't think these numbers add up.

This MP also needs to ask how much money is spent on pointless and overpaid "internal" CfH consultants. All they do is supervise the work of the suppliers and put pointless obstacles in the way. I speak from experience of working for all the main NHS IT contractors.

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Headmaster

BT

presumably BT isn't in the list because it's headquarters are not outside the UK.

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Pint

If Accenture wanted out...

... then it must have been bad...

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Happy

Here's a idea.

dear NHS trust.

You must now keep a record of spending in the following:

IT:

Software

Hardware

Staff costs: Internal

Staff Costs: External

this must be published to central Goverment each may.

thankyou.

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Grenade

Better Idea

Set up the NHS with their own in-house IT department. Allow NHS IT to be subcontracted out when workloads permit.

Discontinue the use of proprietary software wherever Open Source is technically feasible. Rigidly mandate Open Standards (as in, if you can't do it with a package that implements Open Standards, then you do it without a computer) with a view towards an eventual migration to 100% Open Source.

The NHS exists to make sick people better, not to make billionaires richer.

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Dont agree...

Sorry but i really dont see going 100% Open Source as being anything but an ideological gain. Its already been shown by an analysis on The Register (i cant be bothered finding the article, it was only a couple of days ago) that the spending on licences is not a big deal in the grand scheme of government run IT.

When compared to the costs of new implementations, increased cost of maintenance (yep you actually need an IT person with a brain to handle most open source backhaul/maintenance, and that costs money!), increased staff training, etc. I would say the costs savings are fairly negligible.

I wont deny that there are some proprietary programs which should be dumped completely for their open source counterpart, not for the savings but for the honest work improvements that they provide. But as a general rule, for me this is back end parts of the system only.

If the doctor wants to use a proprietary product such as Word well i say bloody well let him. Its hard enough to get into see a doctor without them now being away on additional IT training courses!

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Unhappy

If only

"Set up the NHS with their own in-house IT department."

A great idea but which headline will appear in the tabloids the next day?

"NHS to pay market rates for experienced IT staff"

Or

"NHS wastes billions on back office pen pushers while Gladys (97) is left on a trolley in a corridor"

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Silver badge

The problem is proprietary standards

There is actually a very good reason for a doctor not to use (the current version of) Microsoft Word: It doesn't have the ability to export in an open standard format.

Document formats that aren't open standards are subject to become unreadable in future. If the only thing that can read the file is a version of a proprietary program that is no longer legally available, and contains (inadvertent) hard limits that prevent it running on modern hardware (trivial example: BASIC program with a FOR-NEXT loop for timing, written on XT, uses integer variable limited to -32768..+32767, won't run on 80486 processor), you're what's known technically as shafted.

But Microsoft will never, unless forced by legislation, allow Word to export .odt files nor Excel to export .ods; because they know that the only thing keeping them in business in the first place is that none of their users have a real choice to go elsewhere.

An IT person with a brain is still cheaper than expensive proprietary licences and expensive unexplainable downtime. Staff training is a red herring. The keyboard layout is the same between Windows and Linux, and most people don't use Microsoft Office properly anyway (I've seen documents laid out using rows of spaces, and I've seen people adding numbers with a calculator to fill in spreadsheets).

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OSC
Linux

Just wondering...

...if you feel like emailing the Open Source Consortium.

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Bronze badge

Perspective on numbers

to put the £1.4bn current account expenditure in perspective, the NHS budget in 2008/9 was over £100bn. I'm not sure how the IT capital expenditure compares with the non-IT allocations, but I suspect there are a lot of FTSE companies that would like to see their IT expenditure at that level. The costs per employee don't seem very high either.

There's no doubt there will be waste, and no doubt (like all big companies) many IT costs are hidden, but anybody expecting to knock more than a few tenths of a percent off the costs of the whole edifice by eliminating IT waste is going to be disappointed. Given that around 80% of NHS expenditure goes on wages, then it would be interesting to know whether IT expenditure costs are justified through increased productivity. NHS productivity was declining according to official figures (at least in 2008). I suspect there are far larger gains to be made there, albeit that much NHS work is necessarily labour intensive (especially in the maternity wards...)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/1576999/NHS-gets-more-money-but-productivity-falls.html

Of course there are valid questions over how fit for purpose IT infrastructure is, but the amounts don't seem out of proportion.

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excuses

"comprehensive information was not held centrally and could not be obtained except at disproportionate cost."

Disproportionate compared to what? Perhaps bribes to get the information released given most 'trusts' don't trust each other let alone central NHS.

"Cable and Wireless UK 23.50 CSC 213.00

CSC Computer Science 0.23"

Let me guess... CSC and CSC Computer Science might be the same - is 213+0.23=213.23 too difficult for you?

Burns is a gutless weasel... he hasn't got the balls to railroad NHS bureaucrats to pony up the details - its in the 'too hard, and then some' basket.

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JDX
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Excessively expensive?

How much does this mean? I mean pay someone to go around the different data centres (which I don't believe cannot be accessed centrally in some form) and get the numbers. Or even a small team.

Are we talking £10k or £100k or £1million here?

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JDX
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Linux

Blah blah, open source, blah

Get over yourselves. Lots of companies use exclusively proprietary formats/software and are efficient and profit-generating. The spending because the NHS doesn't use OS is a minority, forcing this to change would

a)be like sticking a plaster on someone in a car crash

b)cost a massive amount

The NHS' problems are not related to Microsoft. Fun as it is to blame everything on evil closed-source projects, that's just a load of rubbish.

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JDX
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FAIL

none of their users have a real choice to go elsewhere

I choose to pay for Windows because even though I'm a programmer, I prefer it

I choose to pay for Visual Studio because it's great

I choose to pay for Office because it's just way better than Open Office in my opinion

News flash... just because you like ideology of open standards over functionality, doesn't mean others do.

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FAIL

FAIL back at you

"[J]ust because you like ideology of open standards over functionality, doesn't mean others do."

When there is a document you saved long ago, that you would love to be able to open, but you can't because there is no piece of software anywhere in the world that can open it anymore, you will choke on those words.

In the special case of the NHS, the ability (or not) to open an old, saved document might actually mean the difference between life and death for somebody.

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