NHS needs more money for IT — surprise, surprise!

NHS needs more money for IT — surprise, surprise!

The Labour government is pumping huge amounts of money into the National Health Service. Hooray! But most of the money will not go to pay for more doctors, nurses and hospital beds, but into the pockets of IT companies and consultants. According to this Register story, the NHS IT spend is about to double — from 2.3 billion to 4 billion. Quote:

“Richard Granger, NHS IT director, is negotiating with John Reid, health secretary, for the additional funds. “The programme needs a sustainable level of funding, he told the FT. “We are right in the middle of dealing with this.. I am looking for an extra 2bn.” Reid has already approved a budget of 2.3bn, so this means the NHS information technology programme has almost doubled in price, before it’s even got started. The NHS, the UK’s biggest civilian IT buyer, is to spend billions to update health service computer systems. The end result of this investment should be an integrated patient record, prescribing and booking system. If Mr Granger succeeds in securing the extra money, NHS spending will jump from 850m in 2002 to 3.2bn a year in 2007, according to the FT. He expects the NHS will recruit an additional 7,000-10,000 IT staff, joining the 20,000-strong current IT employee roster.”

I’m a great believer in computing. And the NHS needs a good IT infrastructure. But given the disastrous history of large-scale IT projects in British public authorities, this looks like a mega-disaster in the making.