Letter to Mr David Nicholson

From Nhs It Info

School of Computing Science
Middlesex University
Hendon Campus
The Burroughs
London NW4 4BT

Tel: +44 (0)20 8411 5000
Fax: +44 (0)20 8411 6411
Email: @mdx.ac.uk

David Nicholson CBE
Chief Executive of the NHS
Department of Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall
London SW1A 2NS

29 November 2006

Dear Mr Nicholson

We are writing to you on behalf of the group of 23 senior academics in computing and systems who have over recent months been expressing their urgent concerns about the National Programme for IT in the NHS (NPfIT).

In April we wrote to the Select Committee on Health to say that we believed that NPfIT was showing many of the symptoms we had seen in major IT systems that had been cancelled, had overrun massively, had failed to deliver an acceptable service to intended users or had failed to reach business benefit targets for their organisations. We asked the Committee to call for an independent review of NPfIT and to publish the results. A group of us met Dr Granger and his team in April and explained our concerns. Dr Granger agreed that a constructive independent review such as we proposed could be helpful.

Since we first voiced our concerns, subsequent problems, including those with suppliers, have increased our anxieties. People working within NPfIT, at many levels, have contacted us giving details of specific problems. It also seems clear that NPfIT has failed to gain the confidence and support of large numbers of the NHS community. We are confident, however, that an independent review would identify the main underlying technical and managerial problems, help provide solutions and bolster confidence. Our experience of technical reviews of major computing projects is that, when carried out professionally and dispassionately, they more than repay the time and cost involved.

We are delighted now to learn that the Select Committee has decided to hold an inquiry. It may be some time, however, before its results are published. We are also heartened, therefore, to hear via the press that you have commissioned a confidential internal review. We would be pleased to present evidence, written and/or oral, for submission to the review if you would find it useful, given that your review is likely to be completed in advance of the Committee’s inquiry.

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

Yours sincerely

Michael Smith
Visiting Professor, Computer Science       
University College London

Colin Tully
Professor Emeritus of Software Practice
School of Computing Science
Middlesex University

Also on behalf of:

Ross Anderson
Professor of Security Engineering
Cambridge University

James Backhouse
Director, Information System Integrity Group
London School of Economics

David Bustard
Professor and Head of Computing and Information Engineering
University of Ulster

Ewart Carson
Professor of Systems Science
Centre for Health Informatics
City University

Patrik O’Brian Holt
School of Computing
The Robert Gordon University

Roland Ibbett
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh

Ray Ison
Professor of Systems
The Open University

Achim Jung
School of Computer Science
University of Birmingham

Frank Land
Emeritus Professor
Information Systems Department
London School of Economics

Bev Littlewood
Professor of Software Engineering
City University

John A McDermid
Professor of Software Engineering
University of York

Julian Newman
Professor of Computing
Glasgow Caledonian University

Brian Randell
School of Computing Science
University of Newcastle

Uday Reddy
School of Computer Science
University of Birmingham

Peter Ryan
Professor of Computing Science
University of Newcastle

Geoffrey Sampson
Department of Informatics
University of Sussex

Martin Shepperd
Professor of Software Technologies
Brunel University

Tony Solomonides
Reader in Computer Science and Medical Informatics
University of the West of England

Ian Sommerville
Computing Department
Lancaster University

Harold Thimbleby
Professor of Computer Science
Swansea University

Martyn Thomas
Visiting Professor of Software Engineering
Computing Laboratory
Oxford University

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