Most people will be aware of the Connecting for Health (CfH) £6.4 billion budgetted NHS IT project, the biggest non-military IT project ever. To make matters more interesting, the NHS is the world's second largest employer, behind the Red Cross.
There has been intest media debate about whether the £6.4 billion project is or isn't a waste of taxpayers money. Many journalists have spoken about the IT project, claiming it is a complete waste of time, that the doctors and nurses can see no benefit, and that at the top level, what was initially a broad list of companies has now become a project with CSC and iSoft in command.
We are constantly told by the media how terrible the NHS IT project is - what a waste of money it is, and how it should be stopped immediately. Please continue with an open mind, and hear what is a rarely promoted opinion.
The NHS needs an IT infrastructure. Every organisation has an IT infrastructure - banks, companies, charities even have them. The NHS needs one.
Pre-2002, the NHS spent £1 billion a year on IT. It's quite a significant sum, especially when you consider that there was zero external communication between NHS hospitals and GP practises. Spending £6.4 billion, on a project that has lasted 4 years so far, is not a significant increase in spending. The computer systems that existed before this program, were single-aim based. For example, a GP would have access to a computer for patient records, and another system for medical diagnosis .etc.
If I was given £6.4 billion in order to set up an IT system that was a high-profile as the NHS IT, I can almost guarantee I would get the biggest companies in to carry it out - not because I believe they can do it better, but because the media-interest would literally crucify me. The big companies are in each others pockets, this is a political IT system, not an IT-focused IT-system.
I'm sure that many doctors and nurses think that the new system doesn't work, or that it hasn't been implemented properly, or that errors have been made. Well sure, that may be the case, but considering the size of the project, errors are bound to be made. As I have said before, I don't mind failing once, it's failing twice that shows that you've either not learn from the mistake, or that the task is above you.
So how can the IT system be Open Source Friendly?
The best way to make the system open source friendly is to have an open framework. I'm not 100% sure on what the framework is, but as long as the current IT companies do not have unlimited contracts, (which they don't,) then there will be an opportunity for open source systems to be installed.
No matter what the outcome of the NHS system, we need it. We need an IT system. We can't pretend that there was a decent system in place prior to the NHS IT system being implemented - there wasn't (no matter how much the media, and their selected 'experts' may try and sway you otherwise).
I have just been watching http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Player/index.aspx?Encoding=6695 - and I think the first speech is rather interesting.
I'm looking forward to people's comments on this - as I'm sure this is an issue that affects most of the people that read this.