back to article Govt persuades two people to share worst job in IT

The government has found two people to run the struggling NHS IT programme - the National Programme for IT. The world's largest non-military technology project has been without a permanent boss since the departure of Richard Granger in January. Interim boss Matthew Swindells left the post in April. NPfIT is expected to cost at …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    You missed the essential point

    No matter how big a f*** up it is, the job holders will recive huge bonus cheques and be able to get better paid public sector jobs when they are fired for incompetence. Thats how the gravy train works in this country. Meanwhile we taxpayers get the privilege of paying for this monumental phallic symbol er up.

    Paris - becaus if there are phallic symbols about ....

  2. Thomas Baker

    Heaven help us...

    "Bellamy has been at the Department of Work and Pensions since 2003."

    Which means that any system he gets involved with will result in the following situation:

    Despite having paid tax and NI for 20 years, and despite having a broken back, and despite being born in England and being about as English as you can get as far back as you can trace and despite your Grandfather having fought in both world wars, with distinction, you won't be entitled to any help on the NHS whatsoever due to a newly thought up and bizarrely interpreted technicality.

    Oh wait, that's already the case anyway...forget I posted.

  3. Kris Kirkbride
    Paris Hilton

    Talk about a real life 10 year long Chuckle Brothers episode


    Paris could've done a better job.

  4. pctechxp

    computer says no and is supported by idiots

    To life extending kidney cancer drugs for tax payers but if you are a health tourist or just a complete leech come on in.

    And of course we can always find money for silly IT projects/olympic games/mousemats for government departments.

    Folks we need to remind gordo whose boss, the whole of the UK needs to go on strike for two days.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear.

    This is going to cost a lot of money. Anyone who has been a consultant, should be banned from taking a senior post at anything, because they just try to make the job bigger.

    They can never say, that's all you're going to get. They are biologically programmed to respond with, "Yes, we can do that as well, shall we commission a small team to see what the options are?"

    I remember once, in a fight to the death with a consultancy, I came up with a solution for a 12 Terabyte multi currency, multi rule billing system. The consultancy involved had over 2 year failed to solve the problem, which it had grown into a behemoth, and over an 18 day period I came up with a rules engine, based on recursive substitution of unknowns.

    The unknowns would be described as strings with parameterised tokens in them. eg.

    TotalTax="Select sum (Tax) From {ThisBill(BillNumber)}"


    Knowing I was coming, and wanting to continue to screw this company, they sent one of their top guys in to undermine me, and having failed to do so, this guy turned to me in a crowded office and in a last gasp attempt to talk the job up said...

    "I understand and I can see it might work, but the rules are too complex for people to understand. I suggest we write a natural language parser so the rules owners can type the rules in, in English"

    Can you imagine my surprise?

    Does anyone see a flaw that might inhibit implementation?

    I wish I had the gall to suggest something like this, 99 times out of a hundred you'd be laughed out the building, but you'd take company #100 for a hundred million.

    I'm convinced consultancy is based on the premise of "Identifying the suckers by suggesting expensive solutions, and then leeching them until they're bankrupt."

  6. Sam


    Hasn't the DWP had a recent IT development failure?

    Was Bellamy involved in that?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What the...

    "Despite having paid tax and NI for 20 years, and despite having a broken back, and despite being born in England and being about as English as you can get as far back as you can trace and despite your Grandfather having fought in both world wars, with distinction, you won't be entitled to any help on the NHS whatsoever due to a newly thought up and bizarrely interpreted technicality."

    That makes no sence. Go post on HYS. You will find lots of nice people there who think that "being born in England and being about as English as you can get as far back as you can trace and despite your Grandfather having fought in both world wars" should make a fucking diffrenct to the level of care you get. I bet your one of these people who thinks that because someone has only been in the country for 5 years you should be treated better than them. Am I right?

  8. Anonymous Coward

    On the bright side

    It will keep us contractors in work for the forseeable. Nice little shelter to ride out the impending recession :)

  9. John Robson Silver badge

    I'll do it.

    How long would it take to review all the staff and fire them all for gross incompetence before shutting the whole thing down and starting afresh by asking doctors, nurses and patients what they want/need.

    I'm guessing a central database is not high on their list. A distributed filesystem might be.

  10. Scott

    What i find disgusting

    Is that the 2 biggect projects NPfiT and ID cards, ID cards are getting all the love and this project is being thrown to the vultures even though this project would be of so much more benfit to the genral public in every way, shape or form.

    But them terriorist will never terrorise us again once we have ID cards. But when someone is rushed into hospitlal and the doctor could just push a button for his medical history to help save his life he'll be fine cause he remebered to bring his ID card with him so won't be left to die in the street but a MRSA infected bed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm pretty sure iSoft get nothing out of this deal after being financially bailed out by CSC earlier in the project. So essentially the 12.9bill is now getting split between CSC and BT.....Hmmmm, all that money and so much time. Typical NHS planning and strtegy really.

  12. Fragula The Furry
    Paris Hilton

    Where to stuff the BT torch!

    " leaving only BT"

    Let me see.. Is that "British Telecom"

    And the "NHS" would be the "National Health Service", and "IT system" would be some system that handles private and confidential patient/doctor information?

    The same British Telecom that are blatantly stealing and selling their customers, and other peoples private data and intellectual propery rights in deals with a company called "Phorm"?

    Am I the only person who thinks BT should be "struck off" from any involvement in this?

    Paris, as even her sex life is more private than anything going through BT!

  13. Steen Hive


    Absolutely. The "Grandfather World War Fighting Credits" were apparently the first to lose value in the credit crunch.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Thats the plan ;)

  15. Charlie

    typical dopey govt fools

    Get seduced by computer salesmen who charge big bucks for hardware that will be obsolete before it's delivered and software that tries to be all things to all people and therefore never gets finished.

    They would be much better off just setting standards for the data and letting individual entities and groups of entities go out and buy hardware and software themselves.

    There would be dozens of smal and large businesses supplying software solutions for things like prescription management and transfer (e.g. between a GPs desk and the local pharmacy) and as long as the standards are adhered and a copy of each transaction is recorded centrally then the NHS executive can stil have a massive database for its analysis. Note: the system doesn't rely on the massive centralised entity. The massive centralised entity just gobbles up a copy of every transaction and record.

    Laptops cost £300 now. When the contracts were signed by whichever idiot minister was in charge at the time they were probably signing up to a 486 in every office at the bargain cost ot £1000 each.

    What a bunch of monkeys. Sack them all.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Out Sourcing

    This is another reason why Out Sourcing projects is a bad idea.

    Costs a fortune and companies just walk away.

    In-house development is the future.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Oh dear.

    Surely one reason we have shiny suited consultants is because illiterate and semi-articulate geeks are good at producing solutions that do not address the real requirements. Unfortunately 'real requirements' are like the holy ghost (in the machine) -

    DWP software is clearly rubbish, combined with crap call centre staff it all makes for a very frustrating customer experience - tax credits and child support to name but two...

  18. Anonymous Coward


    aside from the broken back and 'being born in england points.. This grandfather that fought in both world wars.. does it matter if he had a spike on his helmet while earning these distinctions that you speak of?

  19. Mountford D

    You are all missing the point

    The National Programme was doomed from the word go as anyone in the NHS will tell you. The only people who didn't know this / refused to believe this / had some ulterior motive / knew this but saw it as a way of making a vast amount of money were the Government of the day, naive individuals who had a little knowledge of NHS systems and the usual vultures posing as contractors who could convince the Treasury to part with tax-payers money.

    In reality, it has kept a lot of IT people in jobs, who otherwise will be on job-seekers' allowance or emigrated to better climes. It has kept Britain's IT skills in the country and provided a focus for a national IT skills strategy, whether by design (the ulterior motive) or just luck or a bit of both.

    I hope it was by design and the Government of the day is not as incompetent as they seem... What am I saying!!!!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Depressingly familiar....

    Is this where the once-noble science of computing has led us to?

    The heart sinks.... if you had multiple choice between :-

    a) BT

    b) Fujitsu

    c) CSC

    d) EDS

    e) your Gran

    then I imagine your Gran would be working well into her 90s.

    PH because she'd reinterpret the classic computing look as 'white coat / no knickers'

  21. Tim Spence
    Thumb Up

    RE: Grandfathers....

    Haha, touché!

  22. Nomen Publicus

    Cheap solutions not needed

    I've heard it told that the only reason that "the usual suspects" ever get considered for these vast government contracts is that only a huge company can afford to take part in the bid process. The amount of paper work alone would drag a smaller company into insolvency.

    So, cheap solutions may exist but will never be suggested by the usual suspects as the profit on a cheap solution doesn't cover the cost of the paper work involved in biding for the contract...

  23. Anonymous Coward


    I now have sufficient time to run upstairs, make a cup of coffee and come down again before my computer is ready to use. I have to input 6 passwords / login details and click on the bit that says my name before I can use my clinical system with the smart card. So far, the only benefits are that a prescription comes out with a barcode on the right-hand side.... and trust me on this one, Choose & Book (so-called "Choice") neither works adequately nor offers choice.

    It's what we doctors call "a pile of shit"

  24. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    I resent

    ... the implication made again and again here that all contractors are blood-sucking leeches.

    I've been contracting for 20 years and the solution I aim for is the one that does the job — even if that one is the least lucrartive option to me personally.

    I want to do a nice, polished job, bill no more than its worth and walk away safe in the knowlege that the support calls will be either minimal or won't happen at all.

    It is a discipline I am proud of.

    I have frequently turned down work that I know I can't deliver on because of internal politics. The job must be at the outset actually “do-able”. But, if I have a say in the spec, (which is really the only work I accept) and am allowed to deliver on time and within budget then I have always done so.

    But then I am not one of Thatcher's children and was university educated during the time it was paid for by the state.

    I see myself as a workman and I take pride in my work. The financial reward is purely secondary. Although it is usually rather handsome.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    for programming people

    The NHS falls into the temptation each time of using IT to change people. Indeed, the common concept of IT that NHS managers seem to hold is that it is a tool to program people into behaving as subunits in their plans.

    Given how hard it is to makes software that works, adding two new layers of purpose and taking its control away from people doing medicine seems ambitious for the most competent of planners.

  26. kain preacher Silver badge


    IS there such a thing as an IT success in government ?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pill And Paper Pushers

    I've done three stints on medical systems, and have concluded that the main problem is that they are specified mainly by Doctors and Administrators.

    Both of these groups are focused on things that have little to do with better and more efficient patient care delivery; and a lot to do with making their lives easier and their existence more important.

    If you actually want to know how things work in hospitals and clinics, you talk to the Nurses and Clerks. It also helps to chat up the Lab Techs, Pharmacy clerks and even a patient or two.

    Unfortunately, they don't sign off on the projects. The Docs and Admin types do; and they mostly sign while performing rectal self-examination.

    A secondary problem is that most doctors only respect other doctors. So when you tell them something is unfeasible, they check for your medical degree, and, finding none, immediately disqualify your opinon. You learn never to cite professional expertise or prior experience. Non-medical personnel are all janitors.

    It would be roaringly funny, if it weren't so important.

  28. dek

    I'm with Greg...

    ...on the subject of contractors and specifically individuals as opposed to "consulting" firms. The former relies his/her personal reputation and typically aims to provide value for money whereas the latter typically relies on contacts and sweeteners and takes an all too predictable approach once a contract is signed. Having seen things from all three sides, including permie's, contractors are best value for money. If that fact is ever in doubt then it is most likely that the contractor was hired for other reasons such as jobs-for-friends/ bums-on-seats/ ensuring budgets are fully spent by year end. Wouldn't want to generalise too much as there are always gems in the rough as well as bad apples, but equally wrong are blanket statements that only permie's can be trusted to deliver cost effective workable solutions... that would be false more often than not.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    thanks, dek

    Much appreciated. Clearly I've blown off all further comment AS USUAL.

  30. fajensen Silver badge

    The best thing about consulting

    The best thing about contracting is that by the time I am send for the worst have already happened: the project is in deep shit, workers are burnt out or leaving and manglement are running around like headless chicken under the looming shadow of the hammer wielded senior management.

    All the stress, infighting and politics have already passed, only the work remains so that's what I get to do! I see myself as the guy who cleans up after an industrial accident. It may look nasty but all the nastiness and pain is in the past. 'Tis great.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El Reg misses the key point...the irony is

    that Grainger has been intimately involved in the disastrous design, procurement and endless cost over runs of the 'flagship' IT program. Yet continues to be paid huge sums - more than the NHS Chief Executive - despite leading a program that has been described by doctors as having little to do with their needs and failing to deliver on any of its promises. And the contractors know the farce is set to continue and one by one are backing out.

    Disappointing that El Reg didnt paint the background to Graingers departure. Richard Grainger, a former management consultant at Deloitte & Touche was appointed Director General of NHS Information Technology on a salary of £250,000 p.a. (more than the NHS Chief Executive).

    Private Eye, Computer Weekly and e-Health Insider have been covering this for yearsL

    Its set to be one of Labour's biggest public service procurement scandals: and reading last years Private Eye report into this, what struck me most is the ticker tape running along the bottom of the report, which gives examples of what £12.4bn - the amount the National Audit Office estimated the system would cost over ten years last year - could buy for the NHS. According to Private Eye, £12.4bn would pay for:

    26,000 doctors for ten years, or

    65,000 nurses for ten years, or

    The NHS’s record 2005/6 deficit - 23 times over, or

    Every hospital built since 1997 - three times over, or

    200 years of currently “too expensive” Alzheimer’s drugs, or

    500,000 full courses of herceptin treatment for cancer patients.

    Come on El Reg - lets see some more on the REAL story here.....

  32. Bob. Hitchen

    Idiots rule ok

    Personal experience demonstrates that most Government databases suffer from "mission creep". Instead of implementing the original specification a million changes ensue. They're all run by "dick heads" who haven't a clue what they are doing or the incremental costs involved. One only needs to look at MPs to realise why society is so ill served.

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