Tuesday, April 11, 2006

IS Academics raise concerns about NHS IT system

I heard on the BBC news this morning that 23 leading computer scientists have written an open letter to MPs expressing serious concerns about the UK government's £6 billion NHS IT project. There are articles in various broadsheets and Computer Weekly too.

Ross Anderson and FIPR have been warning of the privacy problems as well as the likely technical problems with the scheme for years. From Computer Weekly:

"Their open letter to the House of Commons Health Select Committee echoes a call last year by Computer Weekly for an independent audit of the project.

The letter is unprecedented. Suppliers say they have been warned off speaking about the NPfIT, and IT directors in the NHS fear being victimised if they openly express critical views. Academics, who are independent of the NHS, can express their concerns without fear of repercussions.

The letter said, "Concrete, objective information about NPfIT's progress is not available to external observers. Reliable sources within NPfIT have raised concerns about the technology itself.

"The National Audit Office report about NPfIT is delayed until this summer, at the earliest; the report is not expected to address major technical issues. As computer scientists, engineers and informaticians, we question the wisdom of continuing NPfIT without an independent assessment of its basic technical viability." "

The BBC presenter talking about the scheme said the minister concerned has promised today that taxpayers won't be asked to pay for it if it doesn't work, at which point I have to admit verbalised my skepticism.

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