Britain's National Electronic Health System Program To Be Scaled Back

Country Can No Longer Afford It In More Ways Than One

2 min read
Britain's National Electronic Health System Program To Be Scaled Back

I am often asked why software projects are canceled. The answer is pretty simple: you can't afford them anymore. The British government is finding that out in regards to creating a national electronics health record system.

The BBCreported over the weekend that Britain's National Health Service's (NHS) National Program for IT (NPfIT) aka Connecting for Health, will be significantly cut back to save money, and because it probably will never work properly unless huge amounts of taxpayers' cash are poured into it.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said that the national electronic health record (EHR) system being built was "not essential to the frontline" in terms of healthcare - a complete u-turn in what the government has been strenuously claiming for the past 7 years. He added that, "It's something I think we don't need to go ahead with just now."

It is estimated that about £12bn have been spent on the EHR system already since it began in 2002 under highly dubious circumstances.

What is unclear is how this decision would save money. The two remaining primary main suppliers of the NPfIT EHR systems to the National Health Service, CSC and BT, will likely have to be paid for contract breaches by the government.

CSC and BT (and their shareholders) might actually be very happy if this happens - their current contracts require them to only get paid when their EHR systems are installed and working acceptably (the criteria of which were just recently defined). If the government reneges on their contracts, both may be able to recoup their investments, which has looked at risk for a long time.

Fujitsu and Accenture, the two other original NPfIT main suppliers, bailed out of the program in order to cut their losses.

Local UK hospitals might be happy too, if - and this is a big if - they can find the money to replace the EHR systems that were being foisted on them. Continual "teething problems" have been experienced by hospitals using the NPfIT mandated systems.

Because of these problems, in May, Christine Connelly, the NHS chief information officer, told the main NPfIT suppliers that they have until the end of November to demonstrate real progress in installing the systems in big acute-hospitals. Latest reports indicate they haven't.

An article in Computing in October for instance reported that only about 175 clinicians were using the Lorenzo EHR software (supplied by CSC) across the five early adopter trusts. The estimated cost per user was about £57,000 according to a ComputerWeekly estimate. The Computing story also said that another hospital now facing fines of £400,000 a month for missing patient care targets as a result of problems with the Cerner Millennium EHR system that BT supplies.

This has been a fiasco in the making since the beginning, with political hope and spin triumphing over good systems engineering, program and contract management (not to say common sense) at every opportunity.

If the British government is smart, they would kill this beast immediately, but that is politically not viable given the upcoming election. So the government will let NPfITslowly bleed to death, to the detriment of the British taxpayer and NHS patients, both which deserve better.

The Conversation (0)

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
Vertical
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
DarkBlue1

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":["31996907"]}