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back to article NHS IT boss quits

The boss of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the huge government project to improve technology use within the National Health Service, is to leave his post in October. Richard Granger, the UK's highest paid civil servant, said the decision was a personal one, but that he left as the foundations for the project are in …

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Pay peanuts...

Only £280k? I know it sounds a lot, but not for a project of this size, surely?

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It's outrageous

Billions...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPfIT#Costs

This scam is beyond belief.

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Silver badge

'Granger is returning to the private sector and said he was considering a number of offers.'

Presumably these offers are from companies tendering for NHS IT contracts?

It'd almost be news if Granger *didn't* get his nose in the trough sorting out some of the problems he's created.

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Credit where Credit's due

We may question the IT system, we may question the politicians, but I don't think anyone has the right to question the integrity of the man who has lead the project for the last five years.

Not only has be had to attempt implementing a system that has been conceptualised by non-experts and then have technically guided adjustments questioned by politicians, but he has worked for what is far beneath the average pay for someone of his calibre.

Rather than dig the knife in and use Mr Granger as a scapegoat for the project as a whole, let's take an objective view of the projects achievements. Five years ago, the only method of communicating patient information was via the telephone or post. The infrastructure is in place for secure transmission of patient data. Some 90.000 medical institutions are already connected, and more connecting daily.

Connecting for Health is precisely what it says on the tin. Increase communication, increase efficiency - and bring the NHS up to a 21st Century Standard.

Thank you Richard.

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Part of a much deeper malaise

Sadly, the departure of Richard Granger is symptomatic of the way big projects like this often go.

Some involved in this project were smart enough to cut and run months ago, when the taxpayers money started to dry up and the writing was on the wall. They hired slick lawyers to get them off paying contract penalties, too. The less fortunate, who stayed on, have practically been bled to death.

Nobody in an official position seems able to say, in unambiguous terms, what has been delivered and there's very careful avoidance of concrete time lines and budgets; a very bad sign. It says something for Granger, I suppose, that he was prepared to sustain this amount of career damage and serve out (most of) his five year term.

Unfortunately, on the whole, the people who run these big projects tend to excel at manipulating networks of business relationships and meetings, acquiring status and grandiose titles, but they lack the managerial and engineering acumen to pull off a big project.

That's an important reason why (depending on whose statistics you believe) something like 80% of big IT projects fail when measured against their startup criteria. They're not more inherently risky than, say, building a motorway, but fail they do. I doubt whether this failure rate would be acceptable in civil engineering projects of a similar size.

IT seems to have been particularly unfortunate in acquiring a class of pseudo-professional 'project managers' who equate high status, big budgets and a ton of paperwork with delivering something real. The warning signs are often ignored until the thing has gone way over time, way over budget and delivered very little of substance.

As many Reg readers may know, the term 'City Slackers' has been coined to describe such people. Apart from the designer suits, blackberries and over-specified laptops, their main distinguishing characteristic is a CV full of 'successful projects'. Closer examination reveals that these are projects they have left at just the right moment, before, as another reader says: "enormous quantities of excrement collide with the the spinning bladed thing".

Unfortunately, there's no driver for change here. This culture is self-perpetuating. Who wants to do the real work, when there's a great career to be had, at the tax payers risk and expense, by swanning through a bunch of meetings, landing one plum job after another, without actually delivering anything?

Exactly what has NPfIT delivered? And how much has it really cost? I think we should be told! Or will we all have to wait for the Public Enquiry?

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Motorways and IT projects

Motorways and IT projects are not entirely analogous: Once a motorway has been designed and the route approved very little changes - no new technologies, no 'oh wouldn't it be nice if we could just take in Newcastle' (on the Southampton to Plymouth route).

That said, the managers who take on IT projects should know the risks and take account of them. It would seem that too few do.

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How much?

Burning Our Money has taken a look at the ever changing numbers for the project.

http://burningourmoney.blogspot.com/2007/06/supercomputer-such-stuff-as-fiascos-are.html

I can't help feeling the real aim of the NPfIT was to generate headlines for Mr Blair with a complete absense of any actual planning.

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