Published on December 11th, 20092
Thanks NHS, you've ruined it for everyone
Chancellor Alistair Darling recently admitted that the NHS patient care record system is not essential to the front line, paving the way for the project to be scrapped. Yet James West says the short term cost of its catastrophic failure will impact all IT projects for many years to come.
The £12 billion, which will inevitably be written off as the NHS attempts to bury its doomed IT patient record care project, may prove insignificant compared to the price paid by the entire IT industry because of the excesses of this project.
The problem is that the genuine, innovative and hard-fought projects which show IT in a positive light make relatively little noise, especially alongside a PR-freakshow which has cost the UK population £12 billion of its hard earned cash.
To be fair, argue its supporters, the patient care record system could serve a purpose, perhaps reducing cases where patients are given the wrong medicine with life threatening consequences. Yet when did automation and computerisation stop mistakes? If this logic was correct, call centres would be model of efficiency and effectiveness. IT simply automates bad processes and even when the kinks are ironed out, if the people using the systems make a mistake, the fact that the information is computerised will do nothing to save the situation.
Perhaps the reason why doctors, GPs and pharmacists sometimes prescribe the wrong drugs is because they are over worked and under staffed, in part caused by a certain budget deficit of £12 billion.
Were in danger of straying into pure politics here, especially if we suggest that the billions would have been better spent on employing more NHS staff and educating the population about health care. But not politicising technology, or at least putting it into context, is one of IT’s greatest failings and one which must be addressed for it to move to the next level of maturity.
It is of course possible, if you use spread sheets and power point presentations, to demonstrate how the patient record system costs £12 billion, and this clearly happened during the genesis of this project. Yet clearly no one actually stopped to question whether it was worth spending such a grotesque amount on this project.
IT cannot work in isolation, the NHS patient record system is the clearest example why this is true. While all IT may have been tarred with the same brush, there is at least an opportunity to learn from the mistakes made and develop technology projects which are effective and have an ultimate point to them.