United Kingdom’s director of health IT calls it
Richard Granger, the man in charge
of the National Health Service’s delayed £12.4 billion IT upgrade
programme, has resigned amid calls from politicians and academics for a
wholesale review of the project.
Granger, the NHS director general of IT, is to wind down his role and
leave the health service by the end of the year. For his part, Granger
says that much has been accomplished. “I am proud of what has
been achieved by the team I established in 2002,” he said.
But according to British sources, there is concern that the National
Programme for IT (NPfIT) is in trouble. Designed to update the NHS’s
paper-based records in England over 10 years, it is the largest
non-military IT project attempted in the world.
Four years in, repeated delays, concern about the suitability of core
software and the withdrawal of a number of suppliers have left many
hospital trusts and clinicians disillusioned with the project.
Last year Accenture, a lead contractor, walked away from two £1bn
contracts, writing off hundreds of millions of pounds relating to work
on the project.
Mr Granger has argued that his insistence on not paying for work on the
programme until it has been delivered has meant the taxpayer has not had
to bear the extra cost as suppliers work round the clock to keep the
project on track.
He pointed out the NHS had spent £1.5bn on delayed contracts by April
last year, instead of the £2.3bn it would have cost had the work been
delivered as contracted.
Mr Granger dismissed much of the debate around the IT programme as
“complete tosh”. Speaking at an IT conference, he said: “We would not
have got to this point without our dedicated ring-fenced funding. I
think that with a bit less whingeing and more support ... we might have
even got the programme done quicker.”
Mr Granger can argue the programme is on budget, as suppliers only get
paid after they deliver, and large amounts of the infrastructure, and a
host of other applications, including the wholesale replacement of X-ray
film by digital images, are now in place, or being rolled out, and are
But the key goal – a full, detailed, local, interchangeable electronic
patient record – is running at least two years late. The programme also
remains well behind on installing the new patient administration systems
that are needed to work with the patient record software that is now due
David Nicholson, who took over as chief executive of the NHS in England
last September, has been under pressure from hospital trusts to
decentralise the troubled IT programme and open out elements of the
healthcare IT market to wider competition.