Monday, November 13, 2006

Failing computer health

Wat Tyler dredges up the less than luminous past of the man now in charge of the NHS "superpiece-of-shit-waste-of-money-computer".
And this morning we hear that Richard Granger, the husky killer who is driving the NHS Supercomputer sledge over that precipice, hasn't spoken to his mother for a decade, and failed his computer studies course:
His mother revealed that the man overseeing largest civilian IT project in the world failed his computer studies course while at Bristol University. He took a year off after the debacle and was only allowed to resit the exam when 62-year-old Mary Granger appealed on his behalf.

Mr Granger passed the exam on a resit and eventually graduated with a 2:2 in geology.

Yes, I know it's not fair to dredge up the past like that. But this Big Swinging Dick could end up costing us tens of billions and leave us all at the bottom of an icy ravine.

As I have pointed out before, although Granger could indeed cost us an enormous amount of cash by utterly buggering up this system, the people who really deserve to be knee-capped with dum-dum bullets are the bureacrats of the Scottish NHS. I learned this from RightForScotland—a blog which seems to be sadly defunct. As such, I hope that he won't mind me reproducing his post in full just in case it should disappear. Read it and weep.
The National Audit Office has panned the NHS for wasting billions of pounds of public cash on the implementation of a new IT system.

The press are falling over themselves to condemn the cost overrun. They are shrieking at the top of their lungs that this is an awful waste of public money. But at the same time they are not attacking the public sector silo mentality that has caused this problem in the first place.

Now I know what you are thinking out in the Moonbat Swamp: “Good grief, can he not go three lines without linking something with the public sector” but hear me out.

The NHS was set up in the 1940’s with a socialist medical agenda. Over the years a lot of hospitals, trusts and yes even countries within the NHS sphere of influence have developed a silo mentality as a result of this founding principle. And today the NHS has pissed away £6bn because of it. And why? Even I am at a loss because you see in Scotland we already have a working prototype/production of this system.

As a risk of uncovering my Peter Parker identity I can be considered a subject matter expert on this NHS IT system, specifically on Electronic Patient Records and Results Reporting. I worked as the senior consultant on the Scottish project for four years and I know exactly how all this hangs together.

The NHSiS commissioned a number of projects to deliver on the Government’s commitment to the Electronic Patient Record. One is a Results Reporting system that is currently installed in every NHS Board area into which every GP has the potential to access it (web based so only prereq is IE). Every hospital had an Outpatients system that, while the section has not been implemented everywhere, has the potential to provide electronic appointment booking. And every hospital has a secure messaging gateway to allow communication of referral and discharge information. Every GP surgery can have a product called GPASS installed that is their information system, it will do almost everything (keep patient demographic details, copies of their results, referral and discharge letters etc). For full disclosure it should be noted that GPs are free to use any system they want and although all do use some kind of computer system not all of them use GPASS.

While this system is still in its infancy it has almost total penetration with almost every health worker in Scotland capable of accessing it.

Now you are reading this and you realise that this is literally years ahead of the English project (and a good couple of billion cheaper) but that the work has already been done so why not just sell the product set to the English and help them out? Well that is where you fall down the silo.

The products mentioned above are produced by a mix of private enterprise and NHS IT staff but all source code belongs to the NHS in Scotland. So first off the private company involved have no right to sell it. But at the same time the NHSiS has no interest in helping out the English health service.

Yes the NHSiS have sank about £40m into this project but having a simple payment system to allow the NHS in England to licence the product set would present the best value for money. But they don’t offer it. Indeed they actively resist it.

On more than one occasion I suggested helping the English out but each time I was informed that the Scottish had their toy and they were going to use it to beat the English over the head with.

Rather than help out the English service and get the best value for tax money senior managers and even Executive ministers have used this project to crow. Not for them the egalitarian principles of “were all in this together”. No, this system allows the head of the health service in Scotland to look better than the head of England, and the Health “minister” in Holyrood to look better than the real one in Westminster.

But either the press does not know or does not care about the Scottish project. They seem bent on presenting the whole episode as another public/private failure and we can understand that this is how we make news these days. Certainly the BBC has an established anti-private sector agenda to pursue but this lets the Scottish Health service off the hook.

As much as our left-leaning press would like it to be otherwise the real villain in this piece is the Scottish Health managers who refuse to help the English deliver value for tax money.

And this, and stories like it, are why despite massive increases in spending the NHS is impoverished. It needs reformed and those managers sitting on a working prototype in Scotland need to be called to account for their inactions.

It is what RFS calls the "silo mentality" of NHS Scotland that has led to even £6 billion being spent on this project. Although the NHS is a devolved issue, at present the actual funding comes from the same place: Westminster.

These civil servants should be trying to get the best price on a national scale; they should be trying to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer, not trying to gain oneupmanship points over their English counterparts.

As I have pointed out before, much as we rail against politicians, much of the blame for the stupidity, corruption, waste and sheer brass neck of our government must be laid at the doors of those who benefit continually no matter who wins the election.
But today, your humble Devil would like to turn a baleful eye upon those who totally get away with facilitating rape, murder, robbery with violence, corruption and larceny on a grand scale, ID theft, collusion with organised criminals, apathy, spinelessness, uselessness, naked greed, pillaging, waste, sleaze, lies, avarice, power-broking, the arming of dictators, fraud, fascism and misery.

Civil servants.

No matter how we lambast our government for these vices, let us never forget the pieces of shit who actually make it happen. Can anyone tell me: apart from Charles Clarke who, precisely, has lost their job over the shambles at the Home Office? Who has lost their job over the overpayment of £2.2 billion in tax credits for the last two years and the hounding for repayment of those who can least afford it? Who has lost their job over the appalling balls-up over the sale of QuinetiQ? Who has lost their job over the lack of EU farm subsidy payouts? Who has lost their job over the ten times increase in cost of the Scottish Parliament Building?

Has even one civil servant lost their job over these, and many more, scandals? And I don't mean who has been moved sideways, leftwise, upwise or bumwise; I mean who has ceased involuntarily to work for the civil service because of these scandals?

All of this still holds true; all of these civil servant bastards are as bad, as feckless and lazy, as self-satisfied and sanctimonious, as useless and incompetent, as corrupt and venal as any one of our elected fools and yet they take less responsiblity and are held to account far less than those elected politicians.

Every time I see a government failure, I want sackings—with the loss of all pension rights*, mark you—of the civil servants engaged in the projects. Not moved sideways, not shunted to a side room "till the whole thing blows over"; actually fired and sent to join the Dole queue.

Either that, or I am afraid that we are going to have to make people personally liable for overspends. In the Bedlam (the Edinburgh University student theatre), producers never overspend their budgets; if they need more money than anticipated, then they must go and raise it from other sources: they do not simply spend and spend without any financial backing. Why? Because the producers are personally liable for the overspend.

Further, they are also responsible for ensuring that fire regulations are not broken, that the theatre is tidy when they leave, that the company are kept informed of progress and that the entire production runs smoothyly because, if they do not, then they can lose all or part of their personal deposit cheque (which, on the bigger shows, is 10% of the total show budget).

And this also tends to ensure that it is only experienced (and competent) producers who produce big shows which in turn generally ensures that there is a steady upward career path running from small one-off shows (with a budget of tens of pounds) to large three week Fringe runs (with a budget of thousands). If the producer is not considered, by the Company, to be competent then the show will not go on.

Thus there are many checks on the spending of money and the theatre makes a yearly profit. Do we think that the same idea might be applied to the feckless cunts of the civil service? Wouldn't it be delicious? And one could bet that these mendacious fools would spend our money much more wisely if an overspend meant them losing their income, pension or home…

* We actually cannot afford these pensions, which are now unfunded to the tune of £960 BILLION! And as Wat Tyler points out, the benefits are far in excess of anything that we poor, private monkeys will ever see.
Now if you happen to be one of those prospective public pensioners, you might well be looking at this a little differently. You might be saying, hang on a minute...I'm contributing to my pension, so why the bleepin' bleep shouldn't I get it? And indeed you are contributing. Here are some of the current employee contribution rates:
  • Civil servants: 1.5-3% of salary

  • NHS staff: 6%

  • Local authority staff: 6%

  • Teachers: 6%

  • Firefighters and police: 11%

The problem is, these contribution rates are not enough to buy the kind of benefits your schemes offer (note that while firefighters and police contribute more, they can generally retire at 50 on up to two-thirds salary). As private sector companies have discovered the hard way, the true cost of providing final salary pensions with retirement at 65 (let alone 60) is at least 25% of payroll (see Turner Report).

Which of course is why your employers (ie we taxpayers) are having to stump up some extraordinarily hefty contributions of their own:
  • Civil Service: 12-20%

  • NHS: 14%

  • Local government: 20%

  • Education authorities: 13.5%

  • Police/Fire employers: 26%

OK you say, sorry about the cost and everything, but at least the money has gone in to pay for the pensions. So everything should be fine.

You'd think so wouldn't you.

Ah, well, unfortunately it isn't quite like that. Because with the single exception of the funded Local Government scheme, all our contributions- yours and ours- exist solely in the realm of funny money: money that has been sucked out of our wallets simply to disappear in the great maw of government finance. The sad twisted bitter truth is that these contributions are no more than a few extra strokes of the government's Enron pen.

What's that you say?

I'm sorry...there's just no point standing there screaming "Show me the money!"

As I'm trying to tell you: there is no money.

So, cost the taxpayers of Britain an unnecessary £6 billion on a shitty computer system and still get your lucrative benefits paid for by everyone else! Nice work if you can get it…


James Higham said...

Your employment of the term 'luminous' is indicative. You are clearly well aware, DK.

Anonymous said...

Re: public sector pensions. I don't think you should lump in the Local Authority pensions with the others, as the LA scheme is pretty well like the private sector final salary schemes (except that it still exists, of course), in that there is a fund into which contributions are paid, and from which pensions are paid out.

Also, the most one would get as a pension would be half of your salary, for which you would have to have paid in for forty years - so unless you started work at the age of ten, no-one is retiring on a full pension at fifty (early retirement pensions are reduced anyway to take account of the fact they will be paid for longer - I don't know what the exact figure is now, but I would expect that a pension taken ten years early would be reduced by about 50%).

Early retirement pension costs are paid by the employer, not the fund (though paid through the fund). There is no right to take early retirement.

The vast increase in employer contributions (it was 9% a decade ago) can be laid at the door of you-know-who and his famous "wreck Britain's pensions" raid.

AntiCitizenOne said...

Also the reason for poor annuity rates can be laid at the states door.

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