We all know Google has become the new hypochondriac diagnostic tool. All the same, it’s a bit disturbing how far the NHS has started to behave as if computers have some intrinisic sickness-curing value. And I’m not talking here about that inferior version of Google that you can find in the so-called NHS Direct high street shops. (Add a triage nurse, subtract the coffee and the wider web-surfing capability and these are NHS Internet cafes)
The National Audit Office claims that this cost will not all be borne by the taxpayer – only Â£12.4 billions, before factoring in the cost of the “savings” that will result from it. The companies involved – the major one of which was almost destroyed in the process – will somehow meet the shortfall. Hmm. I am definitely too sceptical. My limited understanding of the laws of the market make it hard for me to see why any company would bid for a contract that would cost them Â£8 billion pounds to complete. Their profit margins must be astronomical. In any case, I remember that about four years ago, this was going to be an unprecedented spend of Â£6 billion. So even on the most optimistic estimate, this project costs double what it was supposed to.
The Health Minister, Lord Warner, claims that the project will pay for itself. This in itself seems well nigh incredible, unless it means that huge numbers of clerical staff are to be made redundant, which begs the question of who is going to operate the new system then? My doctors and any hospitals I’ve ever visited have used computer systems for years. Were there some strange 19th century hospitals and surgeries lying forgotten in the world of the quill pen?
Correct me if Windows Calculator is wrong here but I believe that Â£20 billion (cost of shiny new national computer system) divided by 60 million (UK population) is Â£333.33. That seems to be the cost for every man woman and child in the UK
That’s approximately the cost of a cheap low-end PC isnt it? So this new system would buy everyone in the UK a low-end PC, WITHOUT any economies of scale.
How many doctors and nurses and hospital cleaners would it buy? Quite a fair number I would have thought, if we all club together a bit and put our Â£333.33 towards wages. A hundred of us could have paid for a junior doctor or a very senior nurse or paramedic or even two cleaners or cooks.
(Yes, I know that the blog has an excessively medical flavour this week. No particular reason, except maybe that getting a post picked up by the excellent NHS blog doctor site has skewed our thinking.)