Friday, May 30, 2008

IT's A Disaster

Billions of pounds have been squandered in New Labour's love affair with big, hugely expensive IT computer projects. Can they be that gullible to be taken in by smooth talking IT salesmen?

Like salesmen the world over they promise everything and deliver just a huge hole in the pocket (and nothing on time and on budget). Maybe New Labour just likes spending billions of pounds of our cash. It makes them feel important.

In the last decade of New Labour, we've seen many of them crash and burn. Huge IT projects at the MoD and Dept of Work and Pensions end up as embarrassing financial fiascos.

But it is the NHS's Connecting for Health (CfH) computer that's the big daddy. The biggest non-military IT computer project in the world. Costing a staggering £12.7 billion (and that just the official figure).

The NHS IT programme, launched in 2002 in the heyday of New Labour, is already years late.

Until recently, the whole project was shrouded in secrecy, with all sorts of legal injunctions in place to stop reporting. The National Audit Office (NAO), supposedly the big public spending watchdog (well, big on the its previous bosses' expenses) dithered and delayed any report on progress or cost. 

Now the plans will face further delays after a contract with one of the big three key suppliers was terminated.

The Conservatives say the government's attempts to "ram through a top-down, centralised, one-size-fits-all central NHS computer system" has come "crashing down around their ears". That's putting it mildly.

Why not just scrap it and spend the money on, well, how about the NHS? 

Do something about the filthy wards (whatever happened to Johnson's Deep Clean gimmick - come to think of it whatever happened to Alan Johnson?), the appalling hospital contract food (don't even go there) and the third rate service (because the debt ridden hospitals have to spend the cash on paying off the PFI loans). 

£13 billion of our money down the drain and into the pockets of the international IT consultants. It's enough to make you feel sick.

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