back to article UK finance minister promises NHS £3.4B IT investment to unlock £35B savings

The UK's finance minister has promised the country's National Health Service (NHS) £3.4 billion ($4.33 billion) in IT investment, claiming it would unlock £35 billion ($44 billion) in efficiency savings by the end of the decade. Speaking as he presented the nation's budget yesterday, Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor of the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paperless by 2018??

    Palantir in 2024??

    Your government pound sterling at work!!!

    Ministers in SW1 in bed with Peter Thiel????

    Fortnum and Masons shopping bags full of "folding"????

    U-g-g-h-h-h-h-h-h-h!!!!

  2. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

    Ah yes, Mr Hunt...

    Would that be the same Mr Hunt, who, as his first job as Health Minister, changed the NHS management structure so that instead of only one region being in the red, they all were. Then blamed "inefficiency" on the sudden fall from grace rather, than his own miguided imposition of extra red tape with no extra funding to cover it.

    Pepperidge farm remembers... though, arguably sadly, the voters don't.

    1. devin3782

      Re: Ah yes, Mr Hunt...

      Mr Hunt, I think James Naughtie said it best.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Ah yes, Mr Hunt...

        I still don't think that was accidental :)

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes, Mr Hunt...

      And also the prick that wouldn't pay for the extra XP patches so then lots of Trusts got infected with WannaCry.

      I swear he has compromising pictures on lots of people hence why he's stayed in office for so long. He really is a "HUNT".

    3. Alex 72

      Re: Ah yes, Mr Hunt...

      Maybe they can get 10:1 ROI if they keep that Mr ?unt as far away from the project as possible.

    4. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Ah yes, Mr Hunt...

      This will all be wrapped up and completely locked in before the end of this Government with no way of getting out of the disaster.

  3. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Cynical? Me?

    If it's a 10x RoI then why haven't they done it before, instead of waiting until just before a general election? If they'd started 5 years ago, before inflation hit, then it would have cost a lot less and would have delivered the savings sooner.

    What's also not clear is whether this is £3.5B for a £1B planned project spend plus overruns or whether it's an HS2 £3.5B which will spend £2B getting nowhere before forecasting an unaffordable overrun of £5B and then be cancelled.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      I think the key word here is "potential", as in if we fritter away £999,999,999 on pointless consultants, then stick that last quid on a horse with odds of 3.5 billion to 1, it could potentially win us £3.5B

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      £3.5B ? That's almost 100 weeks of Brexit savings, shouldn't the NHS already have received twice this since 2020 ?

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Cynical? Me?

        Yes, they seem to have a soft spot for the numbers 3 and 5

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkUWDvRS9gM

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7Ghyg8ZOyM

    4. Ken G Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      Your next government is most likely going to be Labour so Hunt's job is to commit as much spending while cutting as many taxes as feasible, so his successor has to be the meanie who cuts spending and increases taxes during their term.

      1. NeilPost

        Re: Cynical? Me?

        It might be a necessary, if unpopular thing.

        The only way to make the UK work - and I mean merely not shit, aspiring to be good - is increased spending on core things. Esp the complete broken local Government situation.

        Not like the fucking Tories haven’t massively jacked up taxes to the highest label since 1948.

        https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2024/mar/07/uk-taxes-have-reached-1948-levels-but-the-contrast-between-the-budgets-is-stark

    5. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      It’s a government project, so that £3.4B is likely to be the total contract cost ie. Initial Capex spend plus 5~7 years of Opex.

      The savings figure is more suspect. I anticipate it will include theoretical savings, for example efficiency improvements (reducing number of unfilled appointments) enable the avoidance of additional spend rather than actually reducing current spend.

    6. NeilPost

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      The biggest threat to survival is the bonkers NHS Trust and Integrated Health Boards ‘choice’ system. You basically have multiple functions duplicated many times across England, with each having a CEO, FD, People Team, Procurements, Estates, IT Teams all doing stuff ‘locally’ and part using national backbone systems.

      The ROI isjust nuts. More like £24bn to save £2bn.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Cynical? Me?

        Well you can't have a single National Health Service running the NHS - that's just silly

      2. claimed Silver badge

        Re: Cynical? Me?

        When you have this structure you can break out “poorly performing” trusts for being run by private companies, thus “saving” taxpayer money. Once that bridge is crossed, all the high profit bits of the NHS go to insurance based private healthcare and the taxpayer pays for all the low margin/cost center stuff like GPs. Service levels will plummet but Whitehall and pals will be paid well and have access to nice exclusive london hospitals which generously offer equivalent services to frontline without all the proles queueing up.Then, we can subsidize this shitshow by selling patient data to Google and insurance companies, which will be done with implicit consent granted by using the phone app - which as we know, is the only actual way to get an appointment now.

        Can’t wait for in-network, out of network healthcare. Great way to separate the classes of people with money and people without

    7. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Cynical? Me?

      This is my projection:

      £3.5Bn target over 6 years

      2 years will wasted on procurement so the contracts are "given" to incumbents and Palantir with no oversight

      £10Bn spent over 3 years

      Bugger all delivered & what is delivered barely works

      Contracts extended because too much has been invested to give up.

      Palantir sucks every possible asset it can out of the NHS before say that they cannot deliver.

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Monopoly

    With usual suspects having de facto monopoly for supplying services thanks to IR35 changes (and being exempt from them) they can charge the tax payer to the moon and deliver nothing.

    This corrupt government cannot go soon enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monopoly

      Where did you get that infosysrmation?

      1. pig

        Re: Monopoly

        Probably the same as me.

        Although after working on one gov IT project, I never NEVER! will again.

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

    Have they never heard of templates? You know, standard letters and notes where the computer just has to put in the patient's name and address? This is not something that requires AI, and the risk of it generating inaccurate info is far too high to start using it right now when it comes to something as important as patient health.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

      No, this must be AI so the suppliers can inflate the costs and nobody is going to question it. Because you know it's AI, magic, best thing since sliced bread, our saviour.

      1. tyrfing

        Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

        Perhaps they can use AI to generate the letters, and put them on the blockchain.

        Then pay for them with crypto.

        Is that all joined up thinking? Or do I need to circle back?

        More seriously, this article was a complete shower of...buzzwords. Of course, Labour will double down on this stuff if/when they get in.

        1. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

          Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

          >>Of course, Labour will double down on this stuff if/when they get in

          I remember when there was a real choice in who to vote for...

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

            We still have other parties, we are not the USA yet.

            Time to give the Lib Dems another chance?

            1. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

              > Time to give the Lib Dems another chance?

              Suggest they do need to get back to having 62+ MPs (2005 GE) before we think about government forming potential.

              1. Snapper

                Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

                They just don't need a sixth-former in a tight sweater as a leader.

              2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

                > Time to give the Lib Dems another chance?

                I thought we outsourced menial administrative work to 3rd world countries?

                So just get the SNP to run things

      2. CorwinX Bronze badge

        Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

        It's all the vogue right now but AI is just Pixie Dust.

        Sprinkle it on anything and "this time next year Rodney, we'll be millionaires".

        Props to anyone who gets the reference.

        The muppets spending billions on AI don't understand what the letters actually stand for.

        AI = Artificial Idiocy.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

      Automating, or templating notes and letters is something the hospital I worked at has been doing for years... I think it's called "the bleeding obvious". What might help the NHS more is funding OAP care properly, funding mental health care properly and other social services so the beds can be emptied for people who will actually benefit from being there.

      How long will it take for them to see that cuts save money on one are but cost more in another? Cur mental health spending saves a bit in one area but it's a lot more expensive when the police have to pick up the slack as they're not trained or equipped for the role... to take one example.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

        Or my Dr. daughter having to see the same mental health patients every day, as there in no availability to take them into secondary care. And then patients grumble that they can't see a Dr.

        The vast majority of patients seen in a week should be under secondary care i.e. hospitals where proper diagnostics and treatment can occur and not the sticking plaster that a GP can offer. A GPs diagnostics are a stethoscope and blood pressure meter. A hospitals are multitude and varied.

    3. shazapont
      IT Angle

      Re: automating the writing and clinical coding of notes, discharge summaries and GP letters

      This sounds like WordStar MailMerge.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Don't believe the hype

    This is just more "cutting waste" bullshit on steroids as the examples make clear. We've now got 40 years of IT to look back on and it's clear to most that, while productivity has increased, costs generally have not been reduced. When e-commerce was the next thing™ I remember someone from IBM sagely noting that, while it would improve processes, it probably wouldn't save costs. This was packaged up in the neat slogan "work smarter, not harder", which is one of the better ones of the last few decades.

    Also, given the size of the NHS and proposed duration, this can't really count as investment. No, it'll probably just be the usual creative accounting with budgets for, I don't know, pandemic protection being run down or research projects not being renewed.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Don't believe the hype

      Likely there will be a case when during a rollout, the NHS staff will have to do double entries - in legacy system and in the new system. That will be even more burden. Then you will have problems with data reconciliation.

      Potential for massive disaster and more strain on the NHS especially if done by usual suspects with poor delivery record.

  7. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Zero sum game

    "costs £3.4 billion but it helps unlock £35 billion"

    It's a large-scale, government funded project, so will obviously end up costing 10x the original budget, so that leaves you with a modest saving...probably enough to cover the costs of the Public Accounts Committee enquiry into why it went 10x over budget and to issue a statement about lessons learned, yadda yadda yadda...

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Zero sum game

      Oh the Public Accounts Committee. Aren't they ranked the second after the chocolate teapot in terms of usefulness?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Zero sum game

        Just ahead of the Office of Budget Responsibilty.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Zero sum game

          The OBR isn't that bad; it's just that it's too easy to ignore. Other countries have courts that do deal with spending SNAFUs.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Zero sum game

            Other countries have courts that do deal with spending SNAFUs.

            ...and we have the Minister For Administrative Affairs

          2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Zero sum game

            They are utterly useless. Like they take numbers from HMRC without even questioning their validity.

            1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

              Re: Zero sum game

              I see downvotes, so I'll give you one example.

              https://obr.uk/efo/economic-and-fiscal-outlook-march-2023/#ftn29-backlink

              You can see that in the given example OBR just copies the data from HMRC and don't question that the methodology is rubbish and numbers are massaged to give desired outcome.

              1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

                Re: Zero sum game

                Further downvotes and zero comments? Keep it classy...

                1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
                  Thumb Down

                  Re: Zero sum game

                  Have an extra downvote for caring about downvotes.

  8. bronskimac

    I remember how successful previous NHS IT efforts have been. £10 billion wasted on one that was finally cancelled. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/18/nhs-records-system-10bn

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      One person waste is another person yacht...

      1. Ken Shabby
        Facepalm

        They use Oracle?

    2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      Thank you, reading the comments this far I thought I would have to post about NPfIT

  9. Al fazed
    Facepalm

    Tory Go Vermin is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE

    I've said it before and I'm saying it again, the folding money will only go the the IT favourites, Palantir, ATOS, Capita, Microshaft, Amazon. Did I miss someone ? Ah, yes Oracle! Here we go again, let's build an IT system not fir for purpose, then we get to re-invent the IT wheel in another 10 years or so of over budget and under delivery.

    Please tell me exactly how this world wonder health system will include ANY of the complimentary health practices, lie chiropractics, homeopathy, herbalisms including the use of the politically repugmant cannabis for skin cancer treatment, ADHD. Psilocybin and lions mane for treating depression, etc.

    What we will have is another generous gift of sweeties to the American pharmacey/insurance fascists. Maybe our Tory twats have shares in these edifices of serious IT blunder ? Maybe it's the rich twats who fund the Tory Party who have the shares ? Who gives a rats arse. It wasn't the lack of an IT system that caused 5 year wait to get on an NHS dentists panel, 4 x attempts over 5 years to hopefully get an ADHD assessment, still waiting, etc...etc...

    Just give the Tories the UK's purse strings and 2p deductions in Tax and Employment Insurance should keep the Goggle Box watching British in their places, queueing...........

    Don't make me laugh, I just broke a couple of ribs, and after being advised by 111 to attend the A&E I saved them an ambulance 4hours wait by getting myself there at 6pm. 4 hours later, I am told there is 7 to 8 hour wait to see a doctor. I have had a basic examination to satisfy that I will last 7 to 8 hours in the waiting room and decide to go home without an X-ray, just in case they decide at 6am that I need to stay in hospital. If I am going to die from broken ribs, I'd prefer to be at home with my family rather knowing that I'm going to die whilst waiting in A&E.

    It's the continued lack of spending on dentists, doctors and nurses, not the massive free gifts to American companies that is killing the NHS. Think of all the money them Tories will make when we all have to go private in order to get ANY treatment.

    ALF not convinced...........

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: Tory Go Vermin is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE

      Oi! I watch Goggle Box & I resemble that remark!

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Tory Go Vermin is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE

      Did I miss someone ?

      Fushitesu, Infocyst...

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Trollface

        Welcome to Google Health

        No need for doctors anymore, our systems have profiled every person on the planet and determined exactly which ailments they will have before they have them, and exactly which medication they will need, with the magic of AI.

        We've determined that you will soon be suffering from depression. Here's your advance prescription for antidepressants. Feel free to reach out to us if you would prefer to exchange it for a 10% discount voucher at Dignitas

        Please note, this service may be terminated without notice when we get bored of it

    3. 43300 Silver badge

      Re: Tory Go Vermin is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE

      In fairness, I don't think you can only accuse Tories when it comes to this sort of thing - the other arse-cheek will likely be just as bad...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tory Go Vermin is NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE

        And they have form (see previous notes about the 1980's transformation)

  10. Martin Gregorie

    Same old chicanery

    Late last year, in a weak moment I signed up for allowing my data to be used for NHS research projects because it seemed like A Good Thing To Do. This was after ferreting round the available online information because I wanted to know about the currently running research projects and see what new problems & diseases the combined data of us all could fix. All looked good, though I was a little surprised that there were apparently no current research projects running and there was no information at all about the Federated Database - but at least Palantir seemed not to be involved.

    Then two days later I saw a note saying that the new all singing, all dancing NHS Federated Database was just the Palantir-provided COVID tracking database with a new coat of paint.

    So, remembering all the dodgy things that outfit has done, i.e. the BREXIT shenanigans, it was the work of a moment to cancel my link to the NHS Federated Whatsit, though I do wonder if they kept their word about not using my data: the NHS blurb said that they would only use data about signed-up citizens and would delete data about anybody leaving the project.

    1. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: Same old chicanery

      UK Biobank

  11. trevorde Silver badge

    Past history

    Worked on a project for the NHS when he was health minister. Everyone called him 'Mike'.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Past history

      I used to drive through his constituency on the way to work.

      Needless to say, some of his posters during election campaigns were defaced in an all-too-predictable manner.

  12. MatthewSt Silver badge

    Appointments

    Definitely an area that can be improved. Someone cancels their appointment, offer it to someone else automatically. Then offer the appointment that they had to someone else (or even back to the original canceller so they don't end up at the back of the queue, just a straight swap) etc.

    No staff interaction needed, and people get to move up the queue.

    1. James Anderson

      Re: Appointments

      but no intellegence needed! Either the new fangled artificial kind or the old fashioned wet protein stuff.

  13. IGotOut Silver badge

    Government IT project to money!

    Tell that to Birmingham.

  14. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Finance minister?

    You mean Chancellor of the Exchequer

    Know your roots, el reg, resist the yankification

  15. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Explain to me

    when the AI (whichever one it is) did its medical training and became a General Practitioner)

    no? I'll wait, till then, my GP's letters had better damned well be signed by her

  16. Paul 87

    There's no question that the NHS needs more effective IT systems but it'll never get it done for a sensible cost whilst it keeps chopping and changing it's mind based on the whims of the political taskmasters. I'd argue that the NHS needs a committee of IT and medical experts to agree a data standard for patient records and communications, a standard as clear and as technical as those that under pin things like USB, TCP/IP etc. etc.

    Once anyone and their dog can write software that's compatible and that makes it possible to interchange data, then the commercial markets will finally be able to actually compete with each other and deliver software that saves time and money. Yes, there'll be shitty pieces of software out there, but those will die out over time.

    1. James Anderson

      Banking and finance have been doing this for decades. Defining messaging and data interchange standards and letting other people implement them. The oldest standards predate computers by several decades ( bankers drafts, telegraphic transfers, telex trades etc. ). It just works.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      The NHS needs its own health open systems profile, which mandates open standards for medical data interchange, obviously, a fast way to achieve this is to make various proprietary standards, Standard essential and thus subject to FRAND; this being a contractual condition of supply.

      Once the NHS effectively owns its own data formats, it become possible to interchange data and thus create the opportunity for people to write compatible software, some of which might be open source.

    3. AndrueC Silver badge
      Boffin

      I'd argue that the NHS needs a committee of IT and medical experts to agree a data standard for patient records and communications

      Already a solved problem. Let me introduce you to HL7 and friends.

      My preference is for the up and coming FHIR as it supports XML and JSON and is RESTful.

      NHS Digital now also offers standardised APIs for accessing data across different systems.

      1. Curious

        The UK has rejoined the Horizon program, so maybe they'll be contributing to the EEHRxF updates (including FHIR) and EHDS

        https://digitalhealthuptake.eu/resources/the-interoperability-of-ehr-systems-and-health-apps-in-the-european-health-data-space/

        and allow some other frontrunner to trip over the gaps. And improve medical treatment for UK travellers in Europe.

        Let the politicians have a xml tag in the spec for whatever political slogan they must include in "their" system.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NHS IT

    One of the biggest issues is there is no such thing as the NHS.

    Each hospital trust has a CIO (yet to meet one who could manage a help desk) and and least 3-4 more senior managers in IT with C titles all earning over £100k. This is for organisations that normally have less than 10k staff.

    This means each hospital has its own help desk, processes and standards which are not the same as any other hospital.

    I am working as a PM on a project with 6 hospitals to implement a digital system for one small area of clinical practice. The IT is simple the herding of egos and people change is almost impossible so we are 2 years late and £1m over budget

    1. froggreatest

      Re: NHS IT

      Oh yes, it goes very slow and you need people on the ground to constantly persuade the folks and move the whole thing forward. Nothing can be done fast and there is a risk that some new legislation render everything useless. But once it is in place you get your 5 year contracts and the stable revenue stream and you can be proud of doing something useful.

      I would not be that harsh towards salaried people though, the responsibilities are quite high and they could always earn more in the industry. The fact that they can get those “IT” people is interesting though. Aside from that I found IT departments in public orgs terrible anyway, they are probably understaffed and constrained by contracts but still …

    2. Caver_Dave Silver badge

      Re: NHS IT

      I know a board member of a major hospital trust.

      She says she has a very long list of small improvements - all of which are common sense.

      She complains that if she is lucky she can get one item implemented each year.

      It is ego's of senior management, and the resistance to any change by the unions, that are the biggest blockages she sees to improvement.

  18. Tubz Silver badge
    Joke

    Let us be realistic here, quoted costs £3.4 billion, actually £5-6 billion, savings quoted £35 billion, actual £1.50 and bag of pork crunchies, delivered 10 years late and barely does half the job promised, just in time for the next IT investment and for the political parties to play blame ping pong.

  19. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    "The UK's finance minister has promised the country's National Health Service (NHS) £3.4 billion ($4.33 billion) in IT investment, claiming it would unlock £35 billion ($44 billion) in efficiency savings by the end of the decade."

    Oh, yeah, that's going to work superbly!

    We all know that that's how it usually goes. Especially since our ministers are so excellent with technology and science. And there's no cronyism or other corruption at all to worry about. Just like when Covid happened.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like