Letter to Lord Warner

From Nhs It Info

Stowford Barton
PL21 0JD
Tel: 01752 896 124
Email: f.land@lse.ac.uk

Lord Warner of Brockley
Minister of State for Reform
Department of Health
Richmond House
79, Whitehall
London SW1A 2NS

12 November 2006

Dear Lord Warner

I am writing to you on behalf of the group of 23 professors of computing and systems, who have been expressing their urgent concerns about the National Programme for IT in the NHS (NPfIT).

Last April, we wrote to the Health Committee to say that we believed that the NPfIT was showing many of the symptoms that we had seen in major IT systems that had subsequently been cancelled, or overrun massively, or failed to deliver an acceptable service to their intended users. We asked the Health Committee to call for an independent review of the Programme and to publish the results. A group of us met Dr Granger and his team in April and explained our concerns; at that meeting Dr Granger agreed that a constructive independent review such as we were proposing could be helpful, but that it would require your approval. We understand that during your speech to the Health Service Journal Conference in London last Thursday, you said “I do not support 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.”

Since we first voiced our concerns we have been contacted by many inside the NPfIT programme, at all levels, giving us details of specific problems and strengthening our concerns about the programme. This also makes us confident that a review could quickly identify some of the underlying technical and managerial problems and help to provide solutions. Some of us have experience of technical reviews of major computing projects and we know that such reviews, when carried out professionally, more than repay the time taken up. When a programme is experiencing delays there is a natural tendency to focus more on the details, to increase the pressure on staff and suppliers to meet their deadlines, and to resist any outside assistance as diversionary. Such a reaction, though understandable, is almost always a further symptom of trouble ahead rather than good management. Please will you allow us a meeting at which we can explain our concerns to you, before you finally reject our call for a constructive review?

We are amongst the strongest supporters of the basic aims of NPfIT and as professionals in the field of informatics have long espoused the importance of ICT in furthering the aims of the NHS.

For the avoidance of any possible misunderstanding, I would like to make it clear that my colleagues and I are not seeking to review NPfIT ourselves. We are entirely independent of the programme and we are acting out of strong professional concern and, we believe, in the public interest.

Yours sincerely

Frank Land
Emeritus Professor in the Information Systems Group, Department of Management
London School of Economics

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