News : NHS 24 Admits ‘Systematic Failure’ of IT Project
London, UK, Jan 20, 2016 -- NHS 24’s bosses have admitted the project to replace its IT system was dogged by an inadequate business case, bad project management and spiralling costs, which are likely to rise still further.
Ahead of giving evidence in the 20 January session of the Scottish Public Audit Committee, NHS 24 submitted a document on the project, in which the health board "apologises unreservedly for its failure" to deliver the programme.
As part of its Future Programme, which aimed to improve patient service, supported by modernised phone and online technology, NHS 24 went live with a new IT system from Capgemini in early November last year, two years behind schedule.
But after the system crashed on go-live and experiencing several performance issues, NHS 24 decided to shut it down after 10 days and revert to the old system "on the grounds of patient safety".
The implementation of the system had already been heavily critisised in an Audit Scotland report, published in October, which found that poor procurement management, lack of skills and "over-reliance on the supplier" had inflated project costs by 55%, and racked up a total bill of £117.4m.
NHS 24 has now set a new go-live date of summer 2016, by which time the system will be three years behind schedule, so costs could increase even further.
"Current planning assumptions are that costs could increase by as much as £7.6m. The main reason for the increase relates to additional double running costs and the costs associated with preparing for the relaunch in 2016," the NHS 24 document said.
Capgemini delivered the applications for the new IT system, while BT supplied the hardware and infrastructure. Since its inception, the project has been troubled. Originally due to go live in June 2013, the implementation was pushed back to October of that year before being put on hold indefinitely as it failed to "meet critical patient safety performance measures.
This led to a dispute between Capgemini and NHS 24 that nearly terminated the deal and made it obvious there were flaws in the contract.
NHS 24 admitted that the "original business case was inadequate, the programme governance ineffective, commercial management weak, too much reliance was put on suppliers' promises, and the organisation had insufficient understanding of call centre system implementation to successfully launch".
It said the organisation understood it had underestimated the risk of "developing an ambitious next-generation IT system, but also put some blame on its supplier.
"The failure of Capgemini to meet its commitment to supply a working solution in 2013 manifested these weaknesses," the document said.
"Not only have the different programme boards and committees failed to identify and manage the risks; the various audits and reviews have also proved ineffective in recovering the programme."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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NHS 24 is the name of a confidential health advice and information service provided by NHS Scotland. It is the equivalent to the NHS Direct scheme in England and NHS Direct Wales, allowing people who feel unwell or those caring for them to obtain advice if it is not convenient or possible to wait until they can visit their General Practitioner when the practice is next open. It is not intended as a substitute for obtaining an emergency ambulance service via 999.
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2016