The public get worked-up over banking scandals and yet time-and-time again these massive procurement frauds get little publicity and the guilty go unpunished.
The shambolic nationwide NHS patient record computer system, abandoned by Whitehall in 2011, will ultimately cost UK taxpayers a staggering £10.1bn. US-headquartered Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), alongside UK telecoms giant BT, failed to fully implement the massive project, sparking widespread derision before the plug …
"Brought to you by the same people who want to have a (whack a mole) porn filter."
No, not the current government, the last government, who brought you a variety of white elephant projects, including the centralised emergency/rescue coordination centres; the Liebor party. It is a classic criticism of these people, since the war, that they set off massive projects which turn into money traps. That they haven't changed and that people still vote for them says a lot. I voted for them, once.
"To be fair this is just one component of the whole national IT programme.
There are lots of systems working well."
Automated Number plates Recognition system - working well.
Local authority parking fines systems - top notch.
GCHQ systems - no complaints received to date about any alleged malfunctions.
Actually, there aren't many UK government IT projects working well. The G-Cloud was created because most of them have been fiascos!
We have backward looking bureaucrats who want to maintain all those legacy systems written in COBOL, and keep all those data centers open. They contract with firms like CSC who know how to maximize their revenue from a contract - bid low, and charge for every change - while putting together yet more legacy gear.
What is needed is a modern bottoms up system using tablets, phones and Linux servers, and Big Data analytics on the statistics side. Costs shouldn't exceed a couple of billion!
All that old stuff on COBOL and mainframes you are complaining about has worked in many cases flawlessly for 30-40 years. Its very easy to buzzword it with "REPLACE IT WITH LINUX" but I've seen many implementations along these lines fail because the people buzzwording often had no idea or experience in the scale of system being talked about.
Nonsense! That £1.2*10^10 has bought us all invaluable experience of how not to do it. So long as no civil servant accidentally signs off on a similar project in the next 10 years it will be money well spent and lessons will demonstrably have been learned.
Perhaps CSC could branch out into running planning and procurement training courses for government bods and maximize their shareholder return by cutting out the need for any technical talent completely.
Sure, lets talk about nhs it systems thatbwork 'well'. How about we talk about systemone. Toughboks with mobile service from a network that doesn't cover where the district nurses work. Entire departments not on it so you have to fill out and fax forms. Syncing that just doesn't. Works wonderfully well assuming you want your staff to quit and your 'service users' dead.
I await the prosecution of those involved both in the procurement and delivery sides of this. The public have been defrauded of a considerable sum of money. Until such time as people in public office are held accountable for their actions (I am sure they are quick to claim credit the few times something goes right) this will continue.
As someone familiar with the project, the major reason for this cockup was the govt, though the suppliers do bear some blame.
It started with the the bloke in charge boasted how he was going to hold suppliers feet to the fire. It was grandiose, extreme and a disaster from start to finish. Accenture got out cheaply, only cost them around £400M, everybody else bailed out over time as it was shown to be undeliverable.
The suppliers dived in for the money, they simply saw pound notes and took no account of the insane T&C's, the requirements were built on faulty assumptions and the govt simply had nobody capable of running a project of that size. It was doomed from day 0.
Some contractors did very well out of this as various suppliers needed people urgently to help dog themselves out of the hole they had dug, but nobody comes out with any credit whatsoever.
Of course Universal Credit will be a wonderful success...
"When will they say, as an incentive, if you cock this up you will be barred from future contacts"
Supposedly one of the boxes a contracting company has to tick is "do they have experience with successful projects?". But apparently this seems to get interpreted as "do they have experience with gov projects", irrespective of success/failure of said projects.
The problem with these govt contracts is very, very rarely the software itself. On the whole, most software does what it's supposed to do most of the time. I know there are exceptions but on the whole they do work for what they are designed for...
The real reason for cockups is the govts inability to understand how to run projects, how dogma and blind adherence to certain rules means they force projects to work in certain stupid ways that the private sector would simply laugh at and their inability to retain quality staff who actually know how to make projects deliver. I have been to so many project meetings with my counterpart in govt who will simply tick a box to say that they have done something, risks and issues - tick. Yes we had a meeting, yes we highlighted some pretty big risks and issues, no we didn't actually do anything about them, but hey lets tick the risks and issues box.
The new govt strategy of Agile, OSS etc etc is also doomed to fail. The Taliban fundamentalists at Cabinet Office have zero understanding of large projects, not everything can be run as a two week sprint with stand up meetings. It may come as a shock to them, but big projects take time, cost money and need experienced and competent people to manage them. Get the right people in, allow them to run projects properly and they may actually start to deliver on time and possibly even on budget. <rant off>
One of the big issues was the integration of many disparate systems running on different hardware combined with what appeared to be an irresistible urge to gold pate everything.
Instead of incremental change with an overall goal in mind they appeared to have gone for something equivalent for IT Armageddon. With all party agreement any plan could have been carried forward by incoming governments over a decade or more.
I'm not sure that OSS would have helped. Either way, the gubermint would have been completely out of their depth and unable to understand that, once you agree a plan, you have to stick with it, or your contractor is going to make you pay through the nose for any change request.
I remember reading about a school built through the PFI. When complete and inspected, they found that there were no coat hooks in the kids cloakroom. The education authority contacted the contractor and asked them to fit the hooks. The contractor responded with a price for the change. The authority argued that any fool should know that a cloakroom should have coat hooks, and that, even if they weren't in the schedule the company should fit them foc. The company responded that the authority had prepared the plans, and signed them off, and the company had agreed to implement the plan supplied by the authority. The authorities failure to specify hooks was, therefore, the authorities problem.
A hospital I know built a new wing for its eye surgery unit. When the building was complete, they discovered that, because they'd specified a suspended floor, it was impossible to perform the delicate surgery they wanted to because their equipment moved as people walked past the theatres. They had to continue to work in 60 year old buildings with solid floors. Don't suppose anyone resigned over that either...
If you think that's the solution, you don't understand the problem, which is nothing to do with software and everything to do with specification, in particular specifying the wrong thing in the wrong way with the wrong Ts&Cs. And specifying it in such a ridiculously specific way its bound to cost zillions and almost bound to fail.
Ah the irony is killing me?!?!? Ed 13 I hope that was a joke lol. What the guy above said!
Jesus you do get proper tards online (*looks at Ed 13). The west cost service is brilliant with Virgin and I regularly enjoy £14-18 one way trips from Kent to Birmingham (3 day advance bookings off peak). The value is there and the service is very good.
I didn't mention the quality of the train service they provide or the value for money of off peak tickets, both of which I will take you word for it are fantastic.
I was referring to the annual subsidies paid to Virgin for running the train service, and the complete fiasco that was the WCML upgrade that they negotiated and was part of the incentive for them to take the contract.
The upgrade was meant to cost £2billion and give us a 140MPH railway. Instead we spent £9billion and ended up with a railway that you could only do 125MPH, in parts and 110MPH on the rest.
When Group 4 fucked up the security stuff, they paid back the money they were paid, and paid for the forces personnel to do the work. People from Group 4 resigned and others got no bonus or reduced bonuses.
MPs made a big fuss about it, particularly those from the Labour party.
I'm not holding my breath while waiting to hear that civil servants and MPs who were involved in the procurement and management of this system are going to resign. Because of course taking responsibility isn't part of any politicians or civil servants job any longer.
"Because of course taking responsibility isn't part of any politicians or civil servants job any longer."
No, that's what honest people do, not politicians or those who hide behind faceless bureaucracies ... then get payoffs to leave when they lose an election, mess up a project, and so on.
that actually makes me ashamed to be connected to the I.T. industry and the public sector. It's huge mismanagement, enjoying the gravy train too much and general incompetence all round.
The best of it is, no one will carry any form of can over this ( no blame culture ) and no real lessons will be learned. It's not as though there's not enough precedence, NIRS2 springs to mind.
Oh, and we have to fork over the money and just put up with it.
It's criminal letting public sector manage public money. Politics before common sense... cheap and effective if done privately. There is a major fail with the contract bidding that falls on the shoulders of the public sector managers who can't get a job in the private sector. :/
Have been lost that could have been saved with the 12Bn that has just been effectively pissed up the wall?
Was this a solution for a problem that either didn't exist or did not warrant an effort on this scale? The NHS is always bleating that it doen't have the funds to shorten queues or improve screening?
But to put things in perspective the NHS says 1.000.000 patient pass through it's doors every 36 hours so that is 243.000.000 a year that's about 50 quid lost for each patient visit the had in the last year.
Might have been better off spending it on taxi fares for all those people like my dad who were taken to hospital by ambulance in their pyjamas and left to get a bus home later!
Most of the NHS's current woes can be placed at the feet of Brown and Blair. They poured billions in to the NHS and the majority of it was squandered on an army of middle managers and the said NPfIT. A running joke is that the money would have been better served if it had been shovelled into the hospital boilers in at least it would have kept the patients warm. Another Labour epic fail was the GP contracts and it can't be over-emphasised how damaging this has been for primary care. Can't blame the GPs though, if your employer came to you, offered you a big pay rise for fewer hours whilst not having to do house calls again you'd bite their hand off.
"Another Labour epic fail was the GP contracts and it can't be over-emphasised how damaging this has been for primary care. [...]"
Indeed, and you can lay at their feet the blame for overpaid doctors, an infrastructure that is so under pressure that some patients have difficulty in seeing their patients, it is also the case that Labour milked the PFI idea so much that some 50 NHS trusts are on the verge of bankruptcy. There are so many other cockups this guardian of the NHS has made.
If the NHS has 243 million patient visits a year, for a population a quarter of that, it clearly is not doing anything to improve the nation's health.
Maybe we should scrap the NHS, sell off the property and land, and give the money back to taxpayers (eg by paying off some of the national debt).
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Plenty of lives were saved by this project, if it had made it to full fruition then many many more would have followed. The problem here was not the product but it's deployment realisation and continued interference from the Government which led to cost and corner cutting of the highest order while still trying to please everyone.
Hospitals which managed to implement a full solution (and anyone that is unenlightened enough to think that a central record is all that this was about, like the author of this poor excuse for journalism, should fuck off and stop making comments until they properly understand the processes in place, or head over to the daily mails' forums) saw waiting lists plummet, responder save rates rocket, cost reductions for baseline services and diagnosis scales well reduced.
Yes it went tits up in a very big way, I am not defending how this was done or the budget spent, but the goals set and achievements made cannot and should not ignored. Simply calling it a waste of time / budget squandering / of no benefit, etc, all off the back of hysteria whipping journalism, such as this, does not do credit to the reform they DID manage to get in place.
Or would you rather we continued wandering about with bits of paper and carrying x-rays beween wards, posting medical records between facilities for those people admitted to A&E when involved in accidents out side of their PCT?
Tom 11 it sounds as though you have some knowledge of the NHS. Since I read the article this morning I have read a little more and overall when you look at the numbers it doesn't do too bad a job.
243,000,000 visits to doctors and hospitals a year averages out at about 500 quid a per patient visit, when you consider that many of these visits are actually for surgery or extensive treatment it begins to look compared to many other places somewhat of a bargain.
An example here in Spain; an acquaintance was involved in an RTA, the ambulance that came to take him to hospital despite the EU reciprocal health agreement and him producing his medical card would not take him to hospital until he coughed up €500 on his credit card.
Plus 12Bn over 15 years is probably less than one percent of the budget over that period.
What can be saved out of the exercise if anything?
"...continued wandering about with bits of paper and carrying x-rays beween wards..."
Sorry, do you know how overpriced LSP PACS solutions were? And how much delay they introduced in getting PACS up and running in every Trust I am aware of? I'm guessing not.
"...(transfer of) medical records between facilities for those people admitted to A&E when involved in accidents out side of their PCT..."
OK, so you're talking about SCR here, right? The system with, frequently, inaccurate demographic information and, generally, not much else (Allergies if you're very, very lucky). You're painting it up to be something it isn't. I smell a CSC stooge.
While commenting on NPfIT I am constantly amused by CfH taking the credit for NHS Mail when that project was already well underway (by the NHSIT) before CfH even existed; what the National Programme did was take something that should have been relatively simple and turn it into such a behemoth that they wound up paying (in the words of one commentator) "... £200 million for a crap version of Hotmail...."
Nope, no stooge. I left a long time ago. The project was badly managed with too many fingers in the pie. What I am saying, which you conveniently gloss over, is how this would've helped the NHS and the nation if it was realised as a fully implemented solution of the original vision.
Did I mention the cost of PACS? yep, I think I already acknowledged the budgeting problems, but the system was good, it worked and saved time.
SCR was good, the only reason it would have sparse info would have been down to the staff that use it, you can't expect a data base to fill it's self!
I smell a know-it-all e-insider goon! (over pampered ex-GP per chance?)
Al you're doing here is backing up my post, if you actually read it properly instead of frothing at the mouth you'll see I refer to all the criticism you level.
It's never going to improve until they institute a couple of practices widespread in the private sector:-
1) If you're in charge then you're responsible.
2) If it all goes pear-shaped then you're fired.
Institute those two rules (normal rules, in my working life) and perchance we'll see some projects actually being given rational & coherent thought/planning.
But it's Whitehall we're talking about so I won't hold my breath...
"It's never going to improve until they institute a couple of practices widespread in the private sector:-
1) If you're in charge then you're responsible.
2) If it all goes pear-shaped then you're fired."
Unfortunately, even that wouldn't work. It's ages since the civil service worked out foolproof ways of diffusing responsibility so that when things go wrong it's no individual's fault. They call it a "systemic failure" - that's the kind from which "lessons have been learned".
Just disgusting really! This one was particularly bad because the warning signs were there from about the first year - disgraceful that they didn't close the project sooner. Thing is - while this is probably the worst example, statistically most UK Government IT Projects go this way. http://www.informationweek.com/government/cloud-saas/british-government-it-projects-running-l/240155773 They need to become more tech savvy and govt programme and project management frameworks need to be improved to be more stringent and enforced consistently across suppliers. The likes of MSP, PRINCE2 and ITIL have taken government funded IT programmes and projects to a new level of hell because they are toothless, vague methodologies implemented and executed differently everywhere. Painful as it sounds - I think the government needs to go an extra mile or two on their methodologies and define the low-level schematic structures and associated functional workflows within their methodologies - and subsequently and continuously audit suppliers to assess 100% compliance. By this I mean, for example, that the fields and their associated value options and usage of a Business Case, a PID, a Stage Plan or a Config Item etc etc should be dictated and verified against each supplier. Seriously - what's the point of having a bunch of methodologies that are 'open to interpretation' on a supplier-to-supplier basis - and then have the balls to ask why projects aren't being delivered consistently and successfully?
Real problem is that it is generally underpayed, less-educated and less motivated civil servants trying to operate under beaurocratic regulatory regimes having rings run around them by high-tech commercially savvy profit- and bonus-driven private-sector suppliers. We need lean, agile savvy government and public bodies!
I also think it's about high-time UK Government realised and accepted that IT is here to stay and that development and support will be required pretty-much forever - so maybe they should make a move across all public bodies to increase OPEX budgets and grants to promote longer-term permanent and more loyal staff and therefore not be so dependent on private sector IT suppliers in the first place who are just out to fleece government!
Yours was the only comment that mentioned profits, though rather tangentially. I think that's the root of this problem. The Americans were only concerned about profits, and I'm even willing to wager that they lied about their capabilities to land the contract in hopes of getting those big profits. The British healthcare system is not focused on profits, but on health and controlled costs. Almost inevitable that the crossed signals would bollix things up.
How much profit did the Americans manage to pocket amidst this snafu? All we can hope is that it wasn't too outrageous? Oh, wait. I'm already outraged.
Everyone with any brains should read the book Anti-Fragile by Nicholas Taleb, so that they know why centralisation of risk is not just idiotic, but mental cripple territory, where Black Swans breed.
Life has to have lots of small trial and error failures, including in embryos, to get the really big wins, a mechanism we call Evolution, so the population doesn't just survive, but thrives dependent on how best suited they are to an environment, and the dead end failures die; this is what you need to be Anti-Fragile!
"Everyone with any brains should read the book Anti-Fragile by Nicholas Taleb, so that they know why centralisation of risk is not just idiotic, but mental cripple territory, where Black Swans breed."
As a philosophy graduate I'd like to point out that, in order to find black swans and their breeding grounds, you need only go to New Zealand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Swan
I'm not as sure about white crows as I was before today, because my searches gave patchy (no pun intended, though it is apposite) returns. Such as: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/whitecrows.htm
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