Media Commentary on the Second Open Letter

From Nhs It Info

Contents

Hold immediate NHS IT probe, experts tell MPs (10 Oct 2006)

Computer Weekly

http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2006/10/10/219030/Hold+immediate+NHS+IT+probe%2c+experts+tell+MPs.htm

A group of leading computing academics has written a new open letter to MPs calling for an immediate inquiry into the NHS's £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT). The academics say a report on the programme in June by the National Audit Office did not answer any of their concerns. They are increasingly worried that the systems being built may not work adequately - and that even if they do work they may not meet the needs of many NHS trusts. In a new open letter to Kevin Barron, chairman of the House of Commons' Health Committee, the group says its members strongly believe that an independent technical review is an essential first step in helping the project to succeed. The letter says: "As a review will take several months to organise, conduct and report, we believe there is a compelling case for your committee to conduct an immediate inquiry to establish the scale of the risks facing the NPfIT." The group also wants the committee to help "identify appropriate shorter-term measures to protect the programme's objectives". Plans for the NPfIT include systems to allow summary electronic medical records on 50 million patients to be shared, and also systems to enable hospital appointments to be booked online. Since the group's first open letter to the Health Committee in April, Accenture has announced it is withdrawing from its original £2bn NPfIT deal. The main software supplier to the programme, Isoft, has reported losses of £383m, and the Financial Services Authority has launched an investigation into the company. The chairman of the British Computer Society's Health Informatics Forum, Glyn Hayes, has questioned whether a centralised approach will work within the complex organisational structure of the NHS, and Computer Weekly has reported that some NHS trusts have been hit by more than 110 major incidents in four months."

Query over £12bn NHS IT upgrade (10 Oct 2006)

BBC News

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6035135.stm

Scientists who doubt a £12bn NHS computer upgrade will "work adequately" have urged MPs to launch an inquiry. Experts have signed an open letter to the Commons health select committee calling for the National Programme for IT to be probed. The upgrade includes electronic prescriptions and centralised medical records for 50 million patients. Computer Weekly magazine said 23 scientists signed the letter, addressed to committee chairman Kevin Barron. . . The letter states: "As a review will take several months to organise, conduct and report, we believe there is a compelling case for your committee to conduct an immediate inquiry to establish the scale of the risks facing NPfIT." Martyn Thomas, visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University, and Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, are believed to be the lead signatories. A spokesman for NHS Connecting for Health said it was "open to scrutiny and recognises that other parties - from a range of backgrounds, not just computer science - may be able to offer helpful perspectives. "NHS Connecting for Health continues to be ready to engage with independent and appropriately experienced, apolitical experts and NHS Connecting for Health is currently exploring the possibility of creating a reference panel made up of a mix of academic and non-academic disciplines." Last month, it emerged there had been more than 110 major glitches with the system over the past four months. The failures were reported to have affected a number of hospitals in England, which have begun using parts of the new programme."

Call for NHS computer upgrade probe (10 Oct 2006)

The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6136744,00.html

"Scientists have called for an urgent inquiry into a controversial £12.4 billion IT upgrade for the NHS. Experts signed an open letter to the Commons Health Select Committee urging MPs to review the National Programme for IT (NPfIT). The scheme includes an online booking system, centralised medical records for 50 million patients and electronic prescriptions. But the 23 signatories of the letter, seen by Computer Weekly magazine, said they were not convinced that the programme would work adequately. Last month it emerged there had already been more than 110 major glitches with the technology over the past four months. The failures were said to have affected dozens of hospitals in England which have started using parts of the new programme. . ."

Experts Warn NHS Computer System May Be £20BN Flop (10 Oct 2006)

Daily Mail

"THE £20billion NHS computer system may not work, Britain's leading computer scientists warned last night. The experts called for an urgent inquiry into the crisis- hit scheme - the biggest civilian IT project in the world. It is already three years late and over budget. In an open letter to MPs on the Commons Health Select Committee, 23 eminent scientists from universities such as Oxford and Cambridge have raised major doubts about the Connecting For Health project. The letter, addressed to committee chairman Kevin Barron, states: 'As a review will take several months to organise, conduct and report, we believe there is a compelling case for your committee to conduct an immediate inquiry to establish the scale of the risks facing the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).' Its lead signatories are Martyn Thomas, visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University, and Ross Anderson, professor of securityengineering at Cambridge University. The 23 academics - mostly respected professors - say they are not convinced the project will work at all. They also fear the systems will be redundant by the time they come fully into use. The comments are another blow to the project, which includes an online booking system, centralised medical records for 50million patients and the facility to draw up electronic prescriptions. . . The British Medical Association has also warned that doctors have lost faith in the new system as they have not been properly consulted over it. . . The academics, who are independent of the NHS, feel they are able to express their concerns more freely. This is the first time that scientists have called for an urgent inquiry of this kind. In a previous letter, they warned: 'We question the wisdom of continuing the national programme for IT without an independent assessment of its basic technical viability.'"

Academics demand NHS IT review (10 Oct 2006)

ZDNet UK

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/itmanagement/0,1000000308,39283996,00.htm

"Experts are worried that the NHS National Programme for IT will fail, and are demanding an independent technical review. A group of leading UK-based academics have again called on the Government to undertake an immediate and independent review of the NHS' multi-billion pound IT programme, NPfIT. The group, which comprises 23 computing experts from a wide array of British universities, say urgent action is necessary to prevent the National Programme for IT from failing. They are angered by a lack of action following a succession of project disasters over the summer. . . "The programme is exhibiting more and more indications that it could fail. There are more reasons that an independent review should be held," said Martyn Thomas, a lecturer in IT at the University of Oxford, speaking to ZDNet UK on Tuesday. . . In April, they met with programme director general Richard Granger following an earlier letter, but they are not satisfied with tthe progress made since. "We were given the political runaround first time," said Ross Anderson, a security expert at the University of Cambridge. "But it is not a happy project, and ministers have to face up to that fact." Anderson said that the independent review the group is demanding should utilise sufficient expertise in IT projects, but he warned that it "might be turned by government into another review from the NAO". The National Audit Office reviewed the programme in a report released in June, but the content of the report came under fire after several criticisms were removed. . . Asked by ZDNet UK about the consequences of a continued lack of action on the programme, Anderson added: "One possibility is that it would be the end of the NHS. Eventually it [the programme] may face systematic failure." The NHS distanced itself from the academics' letter, saying in a statement that it was a matter for the Health Committee. "Connecting for Health [the part of the NHS which runs NPfIT] is open to scrutiny and recognises that other parties — from a range of backgrounds, not just computer science — may be able to offer helpful perspectives," said the NHS. The statement continued: "Connecting for Health [CfH] is currently exploring the possibility of creating a reference panel made up of a mix of academic and non-academic disciplines. [A] constructive and pragmatic independent review of the programme could be valuable." ZDNet UK contacted CfH, to confirm whether it would undertake the independent review, and for a response to the academics' comments, but it refused to comment. . ."

Call for NHS computer upgrade probe (10 Oct 2006)

Haber Sağlık, Turkey

http://www.habersaglik.com/default.asp?Act=Dt&CatId=1&NwId=75421

"Scientists have called for an urgent inquiry into a controversial £12.4 billion IT upgrade for the NHS. Experts signed an open letter to the Commons Health Select Committee urging MPs to review the National Programme for IT (NPfIT). The scheme includes an online booking system, centralised medical records for 50 million patients and electronic prescriptions. But the 23 signatories of the letter, seen by Computer Weekly magazine, said they were not convinced that the programme would work adequately. Last month it emerged there had already been more than 110 major glitches with the technology over the past four months. The failures were said to have affected dozens of hospitals in England which have started using parts of the new programme. . ."

Warner rejects call for CfH architecture review (27 Oct 2006)

e-Health Insider

http://www.e-health-insider.com/news/item.cfm?ID=2224

"Health minister Lord Warner has rejected calls from leading computer academics for an independent review of the technical architecture of the NHS national programme for IT. Speaking at a conference in London yesterday he said: "...I do not support at the call by 23 academics to the House of Commons Health Select Committee to commission a review of NPfITs technical architecture. I want the programme's management and suppliers to concentrate on implementation, and not be diverted by attending to another review." The 23 academics earlier this month wrote an open letter to the Commons Health Select Committee calling for an independent review of the £12bn NHS IT programme. In their letter the group urgently called for an independent technical review, describing it as an essential step to help ensure the project succeeds. The group urged the Health Select Committee to carry out “an immediate inquiry to establish the scale of the risks facing the NPfIT". The 23 leading computer sciences related academics first wrote to the Health Select Committee in April this year expressing their concerns about the technical feasibility and risks associated with the £12bn NHS IT programme, currently running two years behind schedule. They were subsequently invited to meet with NHS IT director Richard Granger who subsequently invited briefing. CfH and the academics issued a joint statement saying “a constructive and pragmatic independent review of the programme could be valuable”. No such review has since occurred. Warner said the CfH programme was central to the government’s NHS modernization agenda and had already been vindicated by July’s National Audit Office report. “A positive report was received from the National Audit Office this summer despite subsequent attempts to undermine the objectivity of that report.”. . . Notable by its absence though was any mention of the delays to the systems at the heart of the programme: the national summary and local detailed Care Record Service applications that are meant to deliver detailed integrated electronic medical records for everyone in England. To date in the secondary care sector the programme, through its prime contractors, has delivered just over a dozen replacement patient administration systems, and a handful of very few clinical systems. Key suppliers have either been sacked or replaced, creating further delays. Warner acknowledged that not all had gone smoothly: “Given its size and ambition it is not surprising that there are glitches. But overall we are well advanced with delivering the infrastructure of Connecting for Health.” He, however, restated the government’s commitment for the programme: “"Let me be clear and unequivocal: the Government is committed to ensuring that NPfIT is fully implemented and delivered. We are not going to be deflected by naysayers from any quarter. We recognise that more needs to be done on articulating the benefits that the programme will bring to patients and also to NHS staff.""

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