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back to article Taxpayers to cough more for multi-billion pound failed NHS IT project

A contract extension costing the taxpayer up to £2bn has reportedly been granted to Computer Sciences Corporation, even though the botched NHS IT project the American company had been working on was axed by the health secretary in September. According to a story in The Times (behind paywall) this morning, CSC has cheerily told …

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Anonymous Coward

2 Billion! That's nothing! The MOD today announced that from 2013,

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/08/women-serve-royal-navy-submarines?newsfeed=true

they're going to lock up a small number of females in an air and watertight vessel hundreds of feet below sea level, with hundreds of men whom they deliberately deprive of sex for three months at a time.

Bearing in mind a man recently shot several crew members because his senior officer demanded he wait for guests to use the toilet before he did, what could possibly go wrong?

Still, I could obviously be wrong, and bow if to the military eperience gained from his PPE from Oxford.

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Anonymous Coward

I can do 10000 pull ups

Would be nice to be a fly on the wall for all the showing off and jockeying for position before it all goes wrong

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Anonymous Coward

only 3 months?

That's not so bad. I'm a happily married civvy and I've been without sex for around 9 months - blame my wife's difficult pregnancy and complications post-birth.

Still, it'll all be worth it in the end as by the time I retire (I'm in my 30s) there will be no pensions left for anyone, so we'll be wholly dependant on our sproglets for support through our old age...like in the third world we poke fun of all the time. :-)

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Trollface

Way to go completely off topic there troll boy.

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Silver badge

I would say time to punish the guilty

But they've all either:

(a) moved on to greater things - looking at you Mr Watmore (Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office, replacing GO'D); or

(b) taken enhanced early retirement at 50 with a 6-figure pension (or a 7-figure pay-off) and joined the boards of the very companies that have been the beneficiaries of their largesse.

Nothing to see here, move along please.

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Bring back Granger

Lets compel Richard Granger to come back and sort out the mess, after all, did he not say that he would screw the IT companies into the ground and get a good deal for the tax payer.

PS. I actually think it would be great to get this system working, as I suffer for the fact that my GP and Hospital are in different, non-communicating LHAs. I get to carry the data between the two.

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IT Angle

Holy shit

So the contractors could, in fact, spend the entire time playing on a colossal Doom LAN, be paid £2bn to do so and it won't matter a damn because the project's been scrapped?

I'm seriously in the wrong line of work.

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Anonymous Coward

I've never understood the opposition to electronic records in the NHS. If you ordered something online you would expect to be able to look at the order online, amend or cancel it.

You wouldn't expect to have to ring someone up and for them to rustle around for a piece of paper with it written on.

The problem with the NHS is who is managing the projects. It is people with no vision of what the end users will need, poor management skills and a habit of moving the goalposts around.

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Mog_X

If I order something online from Amazon, I have a reasonable expectation that they will keep my credit card details, address and other personal information safe - is is their own interest to do this because of loss of business and fines if they didn't.

In comparison, the history of government departments leaving unencrypted discs on the train, emailing info to the wrong people, corrupt staff and simple incompetence does not fill me with confidence about giving them unrestricted access to my medical details.

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Anonymous Coward

i can do 10000 pullups

Would be nice to be a fly on the wall for all the showing off and jockeying for position before it all goes wrong

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Anonymous Coward

Huh?

I always thought of CSC as a French company...

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Anonymous Coward

You may be thinking of Atos

Who, incidentally, also have their noses in the trough of large Govt IT projects.

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Sir

Who actually signs these ball-busting contracts?

GET THEM!

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Anonymous Coward

Can't

.. untouchable now, as they were kicked out of Number 10 when the ConDems booted them out..

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Sir

I don't mean the overall group, I mean the person. Set a fucking example that will make people in gov think twice before signing away all our money. Untouchable bastards.

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Anonymous Coward

Surely

"the DoH has been negotiating with CSC for over a year and recently admitted that ending the contract with the company could be more expensive than allowing it to complete the project."

The proper response in this case is to find whoever drew up the original contract and shoot them. Then point out that anyone else who draws up such useless contracts that give the supplier all power even if they fail to deliver will be treated more harshly.

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Facepalm

Breach of Contract

It's so ridiculous that the government are still signing up to contracts that totally bind them and have no constraints on the company actually delivering the goods.

In any sensible scenario it would be: "company - you have not delivered the system we paid for, we are not going to pay you".

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Silver badge

Indeed

Sadly, that requires the cretins* who draw up the contracts to have properly identified what they were looking for in the first place, so not much chance of that.

* Possibly a bit harsh (if only to those suffering from congenital hypothyroidism), but that's £400 for every household in the country, so I think I'm entitled. Mind you, the private sector is capable of making an equal Horlicks of these things. A big part of the problem is those negotiating these contracts will experience this only once or at most a handful of times in their career. Whereas the supplier will have a team of lawyers, negotiators and salespeople who do nothing else but. Guess who's likely to come out ahead? Outsourcing - the new triumph of hope over experience.

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Pirate

It's ironic that companies with relatively limited finances can afford decent lawyers, yet governments with much much much bigger finances can only afford an intern straight out of the LSE.

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Gold badge

Dunno about "ironic", but it is perfectly understandable.

If companies mess up, they go bust. Those who make the decisions know that they are in the firing line if it goes wrong. (Many others suffer as well, of course, but what really matters is that the decision makers are amongst the victims.)

If governments mess up, they just screw the taxpayers a bit more and those who made the bad decisions can usually escape to a comfortable retirement. It's a completely externalised risk, which is always a recipe for disaster.

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Anonymous Coward

US Covernment contracts allow it to terminate contracts "for convenience" which means the company gets paid for what it has already delivered plus the expected profit. If the termination is "for cause" then they get nada.

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Anonymous Coward

Not that I endorse this pork-barrelling (sp?) at all....

but, think of the contract negotiations / drafting thusly:

HMG to suppliers - "£11bn project - you interested?"

Suppliers - "Hell Yeah!"

HMG - "K. Due to the size and scope of the project, you prolly have to hire a shit load of people, develop like a TON of apps and shit.."

Suppliers - "Natch"

HMG - "Prolly have to borrow shitloads of the green stuff to get this off the ground..."

Suppliers - "Aint no thang. Fow shizzle..."

HMG - "K, cool. And, you know bro, that we'd kinda expect some sort of contract where we could, like, pull the plug on this PHAT be-atch project at any time leaving you with, like, tons of expenses and prolly useless apps...k?"

Suppliers - "Um....wait....what?"

HMG - "Don't sweat it bitch, never happen...lolz, like, the ONLY way THAT would happenz is if the, like, British public or some shit vote for some sort of Conservative-lead coalition movement... ROFL!!!!"

Suppliers - "Fow sho! Where I sign up for this train o gravy!!!!"

HMG - "For the lulz dude, for the lulz..."

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Bronze badge

Sooperbo! Inkredoolus!

(and so near the mark it is probably causing a strong tremble at Whitehall?)

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Anonymous Coward

Breach

US Covernment contracts allow it to terminate contracts "for convenience" which means the company gets paid for what it has already delivered plus the expected profit. If the termination is "for cause" then they get nada.

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Pirate

A valid observation supported by media reports

Is any wonder that anyone with any brains is talking their thinking Eastwards, for the West is infested with idiot savant controllers who would appear to be far too fond of the charlie to be able to do anything sustainable and beneficial to all [99.99], with everything geared to protecting the investments and sequestered riches of the few [ 0.01% ] ...... which is certainly never going to be anything which lasts for any length of time in space and cyberspace, in todays heated climates of global information exchanges.

Idiots are as idiots do ..... Amen. And ye shall know them both by what they say and what they would choose from others not to be seen, which tells others exactly what they wanted to know …… and more.

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Bronze badge

yeh-but

Should an idiot be pained and blasted for being an idiot? A cretin admonished for being a cretin?

Or should some overlord /overbee-itch/ over-thang that appointed an idiot or a cretin into fail-unsafe post be ever securely hid amongst the shadows never ever feeling the warmth of inquisitive light illuminating the darkness within and capital acquired?

The military fears an enemy that uses human shields - childer, bairns, chide, womanfolk and militaristically untrained as a bullet and bob stopping, slowing and absorbing barrier to let the fuller trained, battle weary get on with subsequent killing and maiming (well at least in theory)

Yet here in dear old blighty with freedoms wons by many a pint o' gore the wealthy yay verily [I apologise for that one - got carried away] the very unions and trade associations themselves along with the unholy trinity of whitehallians shield their own wealth security and gluttony by the poor, insecure and starved?

A human shield of the poor protecting the well off?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, but what are they intending to do?

No mention is made of whether CSC will continue to develop new products/services or whether this is for ongoing maintenance of existing systems. I seriously doubt it's the former, what with government policy and the severe shortage of anyone remaining at Connecting for Health.

Despite the perceived failures of the project[1], there are still a large number of services in daily use which still need maintenance.

The Choose and Book service, for example, allows GP surgeries to book patients into an appointment at a time/date the patient chooses, direct from the surgery - no need to wait for a referral letter.

We also use the N3 network (the NHS internal WAN) to share X-Rays and MRIs with other healthcare providers (including private) or NHS trusts in other areas which are treating the patient for any relevant conditions.

There are a multitude of other systems, mostly internal web-based, but things which collect gigabytes of data of red tape which we're forced to submit liberal amounts of (anonymised or aggregate) information to.

All of these systems need maintenance and ongoing support. It's not often things go down with the nationwide services (the local Trust in comparison is crap), but I'm always bloody glad there's someone the other end of the phone who I can report issues to!

[1] I personally thought CfH were doing an alright job - they were just hampered by the Department of Health's incoherent approach to keep costs down but still insist on all the red tape, reporting requirements and the insistence on security throughout everything. The latter isn't a bad thing, and something they never skimped on, but the fact the DoH took everything to the nth degree is what slowed them down and cost them so much in the end.

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Silver badge

What???

There is a "Choose and Book" system? When did this happen? Over the last year I was referred from the GP to the local hospital more than once. I was not booked in from the surgery once, but had to wait for the hospital to contact me with appointments.

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Silver badge

Up front costs

The US termination clause is the reason you hear about $300 hammers and $30,000 toilet seats. They also don't allow contracts to claim NRE (upfront engineering costs).

So if you need to design a new product to meet their needs, invest in tooling, do all sorts of testing and certification but with no guarantee that they will buy any more of them in future - even if you have a contract - then you load all the costs onto the first few items you sell.

Of course if then nobody else wants to try and compete, and they need the product, you can continue charging $300/hammer for life!

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Flame

Oh No No No!!!!!

OTOH let em suck us dry, since I am the eDevil

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Anonymous Coward

CSC...

Golden goose contracts only.

Parasites.

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Wow, talk about timing

I've just finished watching the full collection of Yes Minister episodes.

Funnily enough, this bit of news seems perfectly normal to me at the moment.

I wonder who's going to save his OBE from all this.

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Bronze badge

so what's new?

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Flame

How is this better than using a pad & paper

and faxing them over a private NHS voip system?

Seeing as the government appears to be trying to sell the data commercially, why not just use IM or gmail to transfer records as needed?

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WTF?

Oh FFS

Just give the contracts to the Microsoft, Intel and GE partnership and be done with it already!

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Silver badge

Misapprehensions

The fine article, and many of the comments, seem to rest on the misapprehension that our government's main purpose is to do good things for the taxpayers, at minimum cost to them.

In fact, of course, like all organisations its main purpose is to prolong its own existence, perhaps grow a little year by year, and above all give its members a decent living. Viewed in this light, you come to realise that it doesn't matter in the least whether there is any useful output - all that matters is continued employment.

Remember the hospital with no patients in "Yes, Minister"? Just like that.

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WTF?

CnB doesn't work like that here

Round here all that happens with CnB is that my GP refers me to a hospital and some time later I get a phone call from CnB to arrange an appointment, and then I receive a letter from the Hospital confirming it. I've never been asked by my GP what time/date I'd like. He's never even asked me which hospital I'd like and just refers me to the local one unless I specifically request a different one.

If I've asked my GP to refer me to a Hospital outside the local area, CnB don't seem to be able to handle this and when they call they end up telling me that I'll have to wait to receive an appointment letter from the hospital, so it was a complete waste of time/money them being involved at all.

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