Richard Bacon

From Nhs It Info

(South Norfolk, Conservative - Member, Public Accounts Committee)

House of Commons Debate (12 Feb 2004)

"The NPfIT concerns the provision for clinicians of electronic patient records, and it is costing a fortune. Estimates have varied. A recent announcement valued contracts in the region of £2.3 billion. That figure rose to £2.6 billion, and following the recent letting of quite a few contracts, it has reached some £4.2 billion. Indeed, it is expected to rise still higher. The problem is that however much money is spent on the programme, it will not work unless there is buy-in from the users. One of the classic problems with such projects is that the users are not consulted adequately or in time. The magazine Computer Weekly and the NPfIT itself jointly undertook a study of this issue. A health care market research firm called Medix undertook a survey of people in the health service who might need to have contact with the programme. It asked, "What consultation has there been with you personally about the NPfIT?" One per cent. described such consultation as "More than adequate"; 3 per cent. said it was "Adequate"; 8 per cent. said it was "Barely adequate"; and 11 per cent. said it was "Inadequate". However, 75 per cent. said of such consultation that there had been "None at all", and 2 per cent. were "Unsure". The NPfIT was so furious about these results that it issued its own press release, in which it completely ignored any of the survey's negative findings. Those who want to check the survey can do so easily, as it has helpfully been made available on the internet. That is one of the few ways in which IT manages to hoist itself by its own petard."

House of Commons Debate (29 Jun 2004)

"The project has seen Professor Peter Hutton, the chief clinical adviser, resign as chairman of the clinical advisory board, and until extremely recently the views of GPs had been largely ignored. Indeed, in respect of many of the other projects that we have considered, the advice of the National Audit Office concerning the need to consult early was also totally ignored. The NHS has contracted to buy far more systems in phase 1 than there is demand from hospital trusts, and in phase 2 the contractors will almost certainly be unable to meet the likely demand. Finally, GP magazine described the programme as "more likely to be a fiasco than the Dome"."

Parliamentary Question (20 Oct 2004)

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the financing arrangements are for the National Programme for IT in the national health service; and what steps the Government are taking to secure the buy-in of clinicians to the programme."

Parliamentary Question (21 Jul 2005)

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health which primary care trusts have issued Connecting for Health smartcards with the same PIN number for every user."

Parliamentary Question (27 Feb 2006)

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether (a) her Department, (b) Connecting for Health and (c) other NHS bodies have unfulfilled contractual minimum volume order obligations to local service providers."

Parliamentary Question (8 Mar 2006)

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health: (1) what the contracted obligations of the public sector are under the Connecting for Health Supplier Attachment Scheme; what the maximum cost to public funds is of not meeting these obligations; and if she will make a statement; (2) what representations (a) her Department and (b) Connecting for Health have received from (i) local service providers and (ii) NHS bodies about the Supplier Attachment Scheme."

House of Commons Debate (18 Jul 2006)

"One of the suggestions that has been made by Connecting for Health is that 750,000 prescriptions have been issued by using the electronic prescribing service. One of the slightly alarming facts is that only 1.5 per cent. of those were received electronically by pharmacists and hence dispensed. The rest of them—some of 740,000—simply vanished into the ether, never to be seen or heard of again. The thought of thousands of NHS staff typing pointlessly away is a combination of industry and futility that I find rather depressing to contemplate. The reason for that state of affairs is that, where systems were put in place in GP surgeries, the corresponding systems were not put in place in pharmacies, and sometimes vice versa. That is a relatively small example of some of the problems. There are many others. Perhaps the most important and difficult component of the national programme is the delivery of patient administration and clinical systems into acute hospital trusts. We should by now have 110 acute hospitals with patient administration and clinical systems in place. The actual number is just 12. Of those 12, how many are clinical systems? The answer is none. Not a single hospital-wide clinical system has been delivered under the national programme. The choose and book system should allow patients to book appointments with doctors electronically. Almost half of all GP referrals—some 8.5 million a year—are supposed to be made under that system by September 2007, but so far we have only 300,000 bookings. The number of bookings can found on the Connecting for Health website. What is not on the website, but is true, is that by the Department of Health's own estimate, only about one quarter of the bookings that have been achieved were made truly electronically; the remaining three quarters were made by telephone. . . Mr. Granger, the programme's director general, is fond of using blood-curdling metaphors when speaking about IT contractors. He intends, he says, to treat them like huskies—when one goes lame, it is shot, cut up and fed to the rest—apparently, that keeps them keen. However, managing a massive IT programme is not like running a dog sled. I believe that that brand of macho management threatens to bring yet more chaos to an already tottering system."

MP says Blair's NHS computer dream “won't work” (6 Aug 2006)

"The last few months have seen a succession of disasters for the NHS national programme for IT: The North West and West Midlands have seen the worst computer crash in NHS history; the London region has seen its major software supplier sacked and the Health Protection Agency warning of a serious risk to the health of children because IT failures have made a mess of vital vaccination programmes; the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital failed all waiting list targets as a direct result of the Connecting for Health deployment; and new systems in North West and West Midlands hospitals have repeatedly lost or mislaid patient records. The list of failures and delays grows ever longer. Two and a half years in, the programme is two years late” Now it seems that some of the most senior officials in the NHS know perfectly well that the National Programme will never work properly – indeed that many hospitals would now be better off if they had never taken part in the scheme in the first place. The National Programme has already cost well over a billion pounds and the final tally if it continues could rise to over £15 billion. Much of this money will be wasted. Worse still, the health of patients could be put at risk. This scheme was the personal brainchild of the Prime Minister and he must now act at once to bring this failed experiment to a speedy end."

Information Technology in the NHS: What Next? - by Richard Bacon MP and John Pugh MP (Sep 2006)

"The National Programme for IT in the NHS is currently sleepwalking towards disaster. It is far behind schedule. Projected costs have spiralled. Key software systems have little chance of ever working properly. Clinical staff are losing confidence in it. Many local Trusts are considering opting out of the programme altogether. These problems are a consequence of over-centralisation, over-ambition and an obsession with quick political fixes. But a reformed programme can still be rescued. Recent publicity and the shake-up already underway among Local Service Providers and key contractors provide an opportunity to do this, which must not be missed. What is required is to create a proper balance between central standards and central procurement where this offers demonstrable benefits, and local autonomy and responsibility. IT offers enormous potential benefits to the NHS, its staff and above all its patients. It is not too late to make sure that these benefits are properly delivered."

Parliamentary Question (12 Oct 2006)

"To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the definition is under the terms of the Connecting for Health contracts to local service providers of a (a) Severity 1 Service Failure and (b) Severity 2 Service Failure; and how many of each there were in each local service provider area in (i) February 2006, (ii) March 2006 and (iii) April 2006."

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