Saturday, August 13, 2011

Emperor’s New Clothes: NHS IT

Looks like we do not need the child to scream: the tailors have left!!!
Hermitage Museum ©2008 Am Ang Zhang
……They let it be known they were weavers, and they said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.

"Those would be just the clothes for me," thought the Emperor. "If I wore them I would be able to discover which men in my empire are unfit for their posts. And I could tell the wise men from the fools. Yes, I certainly must get some of the stuff woven for me right away." He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.

They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest gold thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.

"I'd like to know how those weavers are getting on with the cloth," the Emperor thought, but he felt slightly uncomfortable when he remembered that those who were unfit for their position would not be able to see the fabric. It couldn't have been that he doubted himself, yet he thought he'd rather send someone else to see how things were going. The whole town knew about the cloth's peculiar power, and all were impatient to find out how stupid their neighbours were.

…….The swindlers at once asked for more money, more silk and gold thread, to get on with the weaving. But it all went into their pockets. Not a thread went into the looms, though they worked at their weaving as hard as ever.                            Hans Christian Andersen

 The Lancet: The NHS IT nightmare

The Lancet, Volume 378, Issue 9791, Page 542, 13 August 2011 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61275-0

If there were an award for the world's most mismanaged national health project, England's National Programme for IT in the NHS would be a strong contender, if not outright winner. Started in 2002, Tony Blair's brainchild has, like the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, gone badly wrong.
The main aim of the project was to create a fully integrated centralised electronic care records system to tell the wise men from the fools improve services and patient care by 2007. The budget for the undertaking was a substantial gold £11•4 billion. 9 years on, the Department of Health has spent £6•4 billion on the project so far, failed to meet its initial deadline, and has had to abandon the central goal of the project because it is unable to deliver a universal system.

Given the ineptitude that has characterised this project, disaster was almost certain. According to a new report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the Department has failed to get value for the vast sums of money that it has paid contractors. Of the two tailors companies that are still involved in the project, one has yet to deliver the bulk of the systems that it was contracted to supply despite being paid £1•8 billion since 2002, and the other is being paid £9 million to implement systems at each NHS site that have cost other organisations outside the programme £2 million. The Department seems to have been foolishly duped by commercial companies that promised the sun, cost the earth, and delivered not much more than hot air. Damningly, PAC's report states: “The Department could have avoided some of the pitfalls and waste if they had consulted at the start of the process with health professionals.”    Apologies to Lancet for the typo!!!

                                       £11•4 billion

Or re-read The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen

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