Huge NHS waste: £7bn electronic records system to be axed. Yes: That’s 7 BILLION
A key part of the controversial NHS computer system is to be scrapped, it emerged last night. Ministers are set to announce that plans for an ambitious system that links all parts of the NHS are to be abandoned. Instead of a centralised set-up, local NHS trusts and hospitals will be able to buy computer systems to suit their needs.
The decision to axe an important element of the £11billion NHS IT project comes as MPs launch a scathing report into a system they describe as ‘unworkable’. The £7billion electronic care records system – a key part of the botched NHS IT project – could be targeted under the new strategy. It follows years of controversy and criticism that the project has missed deadlines and run over budget.
Next month, ministers will set out plans for a new strategy for IT in the health service that will abandon any attempt to link up the NHS in a central system. It will instead focus on integrating systems that are already being used by NHS trusts.
A government source told the Independent: ‘We want to give control over decisions about new systems to the local NHS, rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all solution. ‘This allows trusts to retain the systems they want to suit their local needs, while taking advantage of elements of the new system. It means change can happen without ripping out entire existing systems. ‘We are working with the Cabinet Office to ensure we secure maximum value for the taxpayer.’
The Department of Health admitted ministers were looking to find more value from the programme. ‘The Government recognises the weaknesses of a top-down, centrally imposed IT system,’ said a spokesman for the department. ‘Although elements of the programme have been delivered successfully, the policy approach previously taken has failed to engage the NHS sufficiently. ‘We have already …. reduced spending on the NHS IT programme by £1.3billion. We are determined to deliver even more value for money from the programme.’
Launched in 2002, the NHS IT project was supposed to revolutionise the health service, but a report by the Public Accounts Committee says today that the scheme has fallen behind schedule and costs have escalated. The cost of the electronic record element of the NHS IT project is estimated at around £7billion. To date, the Department of Health has spent £2.7billion on it.
But the MPs’ report says ministers should consider cutting their losses by spending the remaining £4.3billion on better systems that have been proved to work and offer more value for money.
Labour MP Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘The Department of Health is not going to achieve its original aim of a fully integrated care records system across the NHS. Trying to create a one-size-fits-all system in the NHS was a massive risk and has proven to be unworkable.
‘The department has been unable to demonstrate what benefits have been delivered from the £2.7billion spent on the project so far. It should urgently review whether it is worth continuing with the remaining elements of the care records system. ‘The £4.3billion which the department expects to spend might be better used to buy systems that are proven to work, that are good value for money and which deliver demonstrable benefits to the NHS.’
Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘The failure is rooted in the overly centralised way the NHS is managed, answering to politicians and bureaucrats in Whitehall.’
Top A-level students to be offered cut-price degrees and cash incentives at British universities
Students with top A-level grades are set to be offered cut-price courses and cash sums by universities desperate to attract them.
These deals are being aimed at pupils with grades of at least two A’s and a B after the Government announced they can take-on as many students as they want as long as they meet those standards.
At Britain’s top universities 85 per cent of people will achieve those grades, meaning many will benefit from the bidding war.
In the wake of tuition fees rising to a maximum of £9,000 from 2012, it has also been claimed today that some middle-ranking universities may perform a U-turn and reconsider charging the full fees. The decision sparked days of violent student protesters causing chaos and millions of pounds worth of damage in central London.
This change of heart has come a matter of weeks before the next cohort of A-level students apply for university places across the UK.
Sir Steve Smith, outgoing president of Universities UK and vice chancellor of Exeter University, says changes brought in by the Coalition will force many institutions to offer enticing deals to students. ‘They are going to have to work out if they start buying AAB students,’ he told the Sunday Times. ‘One of the implications is that those students become like gold dust for their reputation. So you might have an incredibly strong series of incentives.’
Cash deals are already being offered in Essex and Kent to attract students for next year, where students getting three A’s will get a £2,000 scholarship regardless of their financial circumstances.
Goldsmiths College in London is to waive the £9,000 fees for ten of the brightest students from the borough of Lewisham, where it is based.
De Montfort University in Leicester is also offering £1,000 to students with AAB grades or above at A-level.
Meanwhile it seems students going to less prestigious universities will also benefit from a fee cap of £7,500. Universities Minister David Willetts has taken 20,000 student places and put them in a central pool only for institutions up to that price bracket.
Shocking hypocrisy from a bunny hugger
A leading animal welfare expert has been practising the opposite of what he so insistently preaches. Chris Laurence is veterinary director of the politically tinged charity Dogs Trust. He used to be chief vet at the RSPCA, another outfit that has become distinctly political.
In animal rights circles, Mr Laurence MBE is a top dog. He is a trustee of the Feline Advisory Bureau. He frequently lobbies British and European parliamentarians and has appeared on telly.
One of the issues on which both Dogs Trust and the RSPCA have pressed politicians is electric fences for pets. These devices are, to my mind, practical and humane. I wrote a feature article about them recently. Many (though not all) readers agreed.
Last year they persuaded the Welsh Assembly to ban such devices. Using one in Wales could now cost you £20,000 in fines or six months in prison. Last week, a pet owner was left £3,000 worse off after such a case. Serves him right, Dogs Trust said.
But hang on. Information comes my way that Mr Laurence is himself an enthusiastic user of these electric fences. Can it be true? After some sucking of gums, Dogs Trust said: ‘Chris Laurence does have a containment fence which can be set up to emit electric shocks. ‘However, he has never used the fence in this way with his dog and the electric shock component on his dog’s collar is permanently turned off.’ Believe that if you will.
But what about cats? Pause. Then came a further admission. The charity said that Mr Laurence had indeed used the shock aspect of the fence to stop his cat straying into the road. ‘Chris’s personal opinion is that for cats this system can be the lesser of two evils. This does not reflect the view of Dogs Trust,’ growled the statement.
‘Dogs Trust will continue to lobby government in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ban electric shock devices.’
So a charity, some of whose staff seem to hold an anthropomorphic view of pets, is campaigning for the criminalisation of a device — even though its chief expert himself uses one. What hypocrisy.
What about our human right to a common language?
A 54-year-old Indian woman has launched a human rights challenge in the High Court to overturn a new immigration rule, introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May, that bans her husband from coming to the UK from India because he can’t speak English.
Needless to say, we’re footing the bill for this preposterous case, since she’s funded by legal aid.
And it won’t be cheap — Rashida Chapti is represented by one of our leading human rights lawyers. She claims the law violates her right to a family life under the Human Rights Act.
Mrs Chapti, who has lived here for six years and can hardly speak English herself — she needed a translator when she appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme this week — says her 57-year-old husband, Vali, will be ‘a valued member of society’.
But how can a person who cannot speak English possibly be a meaningful member of British society?
Isn’t it time we ended all this nonsense? This case goes to the heart of the debate over what a nation is and what it is that holds us together. And central to that debate is a shared language. It’s got nothing to do with human rights, or the subjugation of minority cultures.
In isolation, Mrs Chapti’s sounds a pitiful case. What difference would the arrival of one middle-aged Indian man make, even if he can’t speak English?
But we can’t treat this case in isolation. Unless we insist that people arriving here speak our common language, we can’t operate as a harmonious society. If those who arrive on our shores can’t communicate with us, how can they expect to work and contribute? How can they avoid being a leech on others?
The great multicultural experiment failed precisely because it encouraged incomers not to sign up to our common culture. It has resulted in ghettos and isolation.
Communities that do not integrate are breeding grounds for anger, joblessness and welfare dependency. They often have an appalling record for women’s rights and, at worst, give rise to home-grown terrorists.
Mrs Chapti says her husband has no intention of learning English even if he is allowed to join her. And why should he? There will be plenty of interpreters on hand — whom we pay for — to help him complete his benefit forms when he fails to get a job.
She claims her husband can’t learn English, as he lives too far away from the nearest school. Yet she’s been able to afford to fly to and from India in the past five years — on her machinist’s salary in a clothes factory — so surely she could stump up the bus fare he needs to get to the school. And how long do you think it will be before her six children decide they want to join her in the UK as well?
This case reminds us how hollow is David Cameron’s promise that the despised Human Rights Act would be replaced by a British Bill of Rights.