NHS computers ‘not going to work’

Labour’s new NHS computer system “isn’t working and isn’t going to work”, a top insider has said.

The government’s £20 billion scheme to store all patient’s records nationally has come under strong criticism in the past over worries about who will have access to the data as well as its costs – which were initially quoted at £6.2 billion.

And Andrew Rollerson, from computer firm Fujitsu, said there was a risk the companies working on the new system would deliver “a camel and not the racehorse that we might try to produce”.

“What we are trying to do is run an enormous programme with the techniques that we are absolutely familiar with for running small projects. And it isn’t working. And it isn’t going to work,” he said in a speech to a conference of computer experts last week, reported today in Computer Weekly magazine.

“Unless we do some serious thinking about that – about the challenges of scale and how you scale up to an appropriate size – then I think we’re out on a limb.”

Mr Rollerson said he was worried about the direction of the NHS scheme and said there was little vision on how the health service can make best use of new technology.

He added: “There is a belief that the national programme is somehow going to propel transformation in the NHS simply by delivering an IT system. Nothing could be further from the truth. A vacuum, a chasm, is opening up.”

Mr Rollerson was not addressing the conference as a representative of Fujitsu, which remains fully committed to the National Programme for IT. The company holds a £896 million contract with Connecting for Health.

A spokesman for the Department of Health defended the scheme, pointing out its potential benefits.

“David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS, is fully committed to the national programme for IT as it is a necessary part of modern health service,” he said.

“He sees this as one of his key strategic priorities as it is key to the successful delivery of patient centred care.”