Monday, November 05, 2007

NPfIT went ahead after Prime Minister had 10-minute briefing

Computer Weekly reported last week that the multi-billion pound NHS IT programme was approved by the then prime minsiter, Tony Blair, after a 10 minute briefing

"A former Whitehall official has revealed that he and his colleagues were given 10 minutes to make the case to the Prime Minister over what became the world’s biggest civil IT-based modernisation programme.

The disclosure was made by Sir John Pattison who was headquarters director of research and e-champion at the Department of Health. He was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s “Wiring the NHS” documentary on the £12.4bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT], to which Computer Weekly contributed...

After the 10-minute presentation to Tony Blair, Sir John Pattison was asked to produce an outline implementation plan. And he was given three months to produce a document that laid down the standards, "or such standards and specifications and governance issues" as was possible at that time."

Given the nature of the decision making processes in the Blair government, this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. It should be a concern, however, as I say in my book, that decisions about the creation and deployment of massive, society-changing, information systems infrastructures are made on the whim of a small number of people with no understanding of the technologies involved or the clear purposes (political expediency, generating headlines and dreams of going down in history excluded) for which they are being constructed.

C.P. Snow said, in 1960, "Some of the most important choices about a nation's physical health are made... by men who normally are not able to comprehend the arguments in depth." So the process is not unique to the Blair/Brown government. Nu Labour has, however, refined it to the level of a fine art, driven always by the obsession to be seen to be doing big things in reaction to today's and in order to capture tomorrow's headlines.

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