Friday, 14 September 2012

BT and CSC NHS IT fiasco proves they are not suitable partners for Cornwall Council and the Cornish NHS

Ignoring the will of councillors and their voting down proposals, Cornwall Council's cabinet are still intent on pressing ahead with a Strategic Partnership of Shared Services with either British Telecom (BT) or Computer Sciences Corp. Embarrassingly for the administration, not only lost a vote about the proposals but also a petition subsequently launched by Independent Councillor Andrew Wallis has attracted 1796 signatures in less than a week (link here) and there is no indication that anybody (outside of the ruling clique and BT and CSCs' boardrooms) want these changes.

I thought I would have a look around the internet and see if there was any credibility in the proposed benefits of setting up a joint venture, the claims are that jobs will be created, savings made and services improved whilst profits are somehow squeezed out of the current budget. I always had doubts that all of these things were simultaneously possible and from a quick search of the internet neither BT or CSC has any credibility in delivering such grandiose promises. BT however are very keen to protect their image by threatening to unleash their lawyers on Cornwall Councillors shockingly with the connivance of Cornwall Council's own legal team, (read that more about that here).

The National Health Service is a great example of how both have no credibility in making savings or improving services. Both BT and CSC were working on setting up the NHS National Programme for IT (NPFIT). Essential reading on this NPFIT from the Computer World UK news site include:

CSC may not be fit for government work, ministers warned in NHS disaster report an excerpt:

The powerful Public Accounts Committee has delivered a stinging rebuke to CSC, by advising the government to give “serious consideration” to whether the IT supplier is “fit” to tender for other public sector work following serious failures on the NHS National Programme for IT.
In nine years under a £3.1 billion contract, CSC has delivered systems to only three acute hospitals, and has missed numerous deadlines.

BT Slammed over NHS NPFIT 'value for money claim' an excerpt:

The powerful Public Accounts Committee has heavily criticised the Department of Health and BT for signing a contract that cut only a fraction of NHS National Programme for IT costs in London in return for half as many large system deployments.
It also said the department was drastically overpaying for systems in smaller mental health trusts with BT elsewhere.

Even the head of the National Audit Office pulled no punches:

The original vision for the National Programme for IT in the NHS will not be realised. The NHS is now getting far fewer systems than planned despite the Department paying contractors almost the same amount of money. 

Eventually and unsurprisingly the NPFIT was scrapped.

Neither BT or CSC have any credibility in their claims, Cornwall Council would be very unwise to repeat the mistakes of the Blair government in commissioning these corporations to run public services. The taxpayer will end up out of pocket and none of the 'service deliveries' will be anything more than empty promises.

If you haven't already please do sign the petition, when I started writing the number of signatures at 1796 and its now at 1813 link here.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps the Council’s legal team and BT should be reminded of the words of Lord Diplock in Horrocks v Lowe [1974] 1 AER 662, a leading case on the the defence of qualified privilege in defamation proceedings (which arose out of remarks made by an alderman of Bolton corporation at a council meeting).

    “My Lords, what is said by members of a local council at meetings of the council or of any of its committees is spoken on a privileged occasion. The reason for the privilege is that those who represent the local government electors should be able to speak freely and frankly, boldly and bluntly, on any matter when they believe it affects the interests or welfare of the inhabitants. They may be swayed by strong political prejudice, they may be obstinate and pig-headed, stupid and obtuse; but they were chosen by the electors to speak their minds on matters of local concern and so long as they do so honestly they run no risk of liability for defamation of those who are the subjects of their criticism.”

    A Legal Topic Note on Defamation produced by the National Association of Local Councils in 2007 explains that qualified privilege will normally attach to statements (both written and oral) made by local councillors in the course of their official duties, and for the purposes of council business, provided that the statements are made in good faith and without any improper motive. Qualified privilege can only be destroyed if the defendant is proved to have been actuated by spite or ill-will. So long as a person believes in the truth of what he says and is not reckless, malice cannot be inferred from the fact that his belief is unreasonable, prejudiced or unfair.

    The Topic note also explains the defence of fair comment .

    I can’t seem to post a hyperlink to the full Topic note but it can be found by googling “councillors qualified privilege” and comes up as “LEGAL TOPIC NOTE 55”. I don’t know if the note has been updated since 2007 but anyone who is a local or town councillor could probably find out.