Friday, August 03, 2007

Supercomputer Pants Disaster Latest

The driving force

When we left the NHS Supercomputer last time, husky killer supremo Richard Granger had just jumped overboard. But for everyone else, the nightmare continues.

For taxpayers, the nightmare is that £20bn bill. For users, it's the fact that they are being forced to use the wretched thing, even though it doesn't do the job and is inferior to existing far cheaper systems.

A survey of Foundation Hospital Trusts has just revealed what user hospitals think about it- remembering of course, it's hospitals who were meant to be its principal beneficiaries.

It turns out they have widespread concerns about the functionality of NPfIT systems.

The biggest concerns ...centre on problems with the Care Records System, mental health systems and maternity, but also extend to picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) – often cited as the great successes of the programme.

The survey results make damning reading, detailing concerns about the limitations of key systems. “Almost every respondent had concerns about the functionality of some part of the system and most had opted out of certain parts of the NPfIT system”.

For example, in the case of the Patient Administration System, a quarter of Trusts reported “major problems, with one having identified 60 areas less efficient than current system, where new processes will need to be introduced at significant additional costs.”

Most extraordinarily, because of its limited functionality, many hospitals don't want the core Care Records System at all, "even though it comes at zero cost".

Just let that sink in. After all those taxpayer billions, the Supercomputer is so bad, and so expensive to operate, that hospitals don't want it even though they're getting it for nothing.

And the Commissars' response?

Simple. If the hospitals won't use it, they'll be fined until they do.

Fined. That's right. One has already been told it will be fined £20m if it delays implementation, and another is looking at £11m.

Thus do the Commissars' manage our healthcare system- terrible strategic blunders, shockingly poor implementation, and those on the frontline simply forced to obey orders whatever the consequences.

Bad, bad, bad.

In fact, so catastrophically bad, that even in Whitehall the Department of Health has been identified as a basket case. As regular BOM readers will recall, it received a shocking Report Card from the Cabinet Office a couple of months back. And they were forced to promise A Plan To Get Back On Track.

But talk is cheap: has anything actually been done?

Hurremm. The DoH's own deadline of end-July has just come and gone with no Plan. According to them, they've been too busy out "engaging with staff".

Engaging with staff. Who on earth came up with that? Does anyone believe it?

It is entirely possible that the DoH is now being "steered" by a pair of washed-out NHS pants. The elastic's gone, and the crotch is disconcertingly threadbare.

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