Sunday, April 16, 2006

You've been a very naughty expert

Richard GrangerThe Sunday Times has good coverage today of the problems of the NHS National Programme for IT, now renamed Connecting for Health. The system installed at Oxford's trailblazing Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre failed after a couple of days. Estimates for the total cost of the scheme are heading for £30BN (a five-fold increase from the original price). Prof. Ross Anderson commented: "What they are proposing is a recipe for chaos and disaster."

I'm sure the Home Office will not be making the same mistakes with the National Identity Register.

Twenty-three professors of computer science called just last week for an independent audit of the scheme. The head of Connecting for Health has written to these experts inviting them to a good telling off, sorry lecture, sorry "interactive discussion". What was he thinking of to include the following paragraph?

Given the importance you have placed on making this public statement, I am copying this letter to the head of your department and will make it publicly available.

What a bizarre misconception of the way that university departments work...


Anonymous said...

The Times coverage is not Very good, it is bollox!! They are writing about a postman who could not get treatment and then within the same article talking about Richard Grangers first Porsche, a sad attempt at journalism. The following is a closer reflection of what is going to happen, Mr Granger is going to deliver this project and show the world how to run the future of Healthcare. Nobody gets paid until they have delivered what they signed a contract to deliver and BT seem to be going fine, the academics should get out more and read less books!, the point is exactly what else would you suggest that he put in a strongly worded letter, the academics are untouchable, thats is why they can sit in their ivory towers and write such bollox in a letter, they should get out into the real world and find out how Corporations tackle these problems. The NHS is the same as Academia, people have no concept of real penalties they are all too safe!!,7204,18812475%5E15385%5E%5Enbv%5E,00.html

Anonymous said...

whoever wrote this has no concept of reality -academics in the UK dont have tenure - havnt had for 20 years - they arent "safe": much less so than whitehall mandarins and their overpaid lackeys.
computer science acamdeics in the UK helped build the internet, the very thing the NHS project wants to use/emulae - far from being "ivory tower", CS academics are sought out by cisco, microsoft, intel, hp, ibm, sun, to name but a few and get more than 50% of their research funding from industry BECAUSE THEY ARE RELEVANT and stand the test of time (and dont get paid unless they produce results) - ask any post doc rresearch assistent.
I wish mr granger nothing but the best of luck in this worthy endavour, coz he's gonna need it with people like this on his side. you know what BT said 10 years ago when we (academics) said the Internet was gonna replace their voice network ? laugh, i sure am glad i have no shares in them.

Anonymous said...

cisco, microsoft, intel, hp, ibm, sun - good to see that you at least know there is a world of companies outside.

You are more stupid than you look, the formation of the internet can be found by looking at a google search or better still a Bsc in Computing. But to quote someone famous...

"Hello... it's the internet stupid!"

How do you honestly think that the internet has got into all the homes and the Companies that it is currently connected to? Do you in bookland think that it has been created to connect people to Universities? Think about it, you know, open your small mind!! Why would someone pay £XXXX,XX for a computer and £XXX.XX per year in connection charges unless they were getting something financial out of it?? The aquisition of money has driven the construction of the Internet not the need to connect brilliant, though somewhat dulled minds... Once again someone who can read a book to quote someone the facts but cannot think out of his cavern.

Ian Brown said...

The Internet was certainly created (in 1966) as an academic network and continued to be mainly financed by the research community until 1995, when the US National Science Foundation stopped funding the US Internet backbone.

jon said...

hmm - i love blogwars.
UCL wrote the first tcp/ip code that ended up in microsoft windows. It was tested over satellite networks in the 1980s at the same time as early internet TV and VOIP were being developed - go look up mark handley at UCL Or peter kirstein or dozens of other UK academic contributers 2M machines on the Janet network were put there by academics - this is the MODEL for the NHS net, because it is better than the dial up and primative DSL nonsense most of the 13M uk home users it has taken a decade longer than necessary for BT and others to provide, have to put up with.
there's nothing wrong with adoption by industry of good technology - however, thinking academics in computing do "books" only rather than building real systems is so completely out of touch with where stuff is really done - commercial deployment needs large scale companies for sure, but gosh, you know how many of those companies employ the academic outputs most succesful tech transfer, namely phD and masters students? gosh, do you know how much BT funds in universities coz it caint do it itself? do you know how many times accenture come knocking coz they don't haev in house expertise to solve a problem they've signed a contract to deal with?
I've lost count:(

onnce again, someone who repeats what they read in a newspaper, and doesnt actually work in the real world(TM). Hey, well, on the Internet, noone can tell if your a dog

jon said...

Crucially, the posting here fails to argue why it is wrong to ask for transparency in the NPfIT programme. Whether journalists, academics, Civil Servants or Porsche say it
is neither here nor there. THis is a large sum of public money being spent on a worthy cause. Having some due diligence is standard practice in industry (and in academia, government and journalism, usually).

Penalty clauses do not guarantee delivery- ask the banks who funded the channel tunnel about that canard.

By the way, a major portion of the net being designed by BT is based on the 21CN, which is based on work by Cambridge and MIT, who gave them significant feedback on early designs. Which is why I (for one) think the network part might just about work - but the other components are a whole new ballgame, and if you know a corporation that has succesfully deployed a single system this large for as conflicted a government agency as the NHS, I would love to hear about it - certainly, there are e-government projects that have worked, but they are mostly pretty toy compared with this one.

watchword: due diligence.

ivory tower: you mean like Stanford (where cisco and google came from)? or indeed SUN (==Stanford University Network, in case you didn't know) or Hewlett Packard

or Cambridge, where the human genome was done.

safe: like the civil service pay and pensions?

Anonymous said...

Well done for the History of the net lecture, Academics are good at giving lectures, so are you now telling me the tail wagged the dog? What would be the use of setting up a healthcare IT system if JANET etc had only stayed in bookland. The reason that it is now avaliable an option is because people have a Windows PC with a connection in 97% of the cases, linux is comming up strong I here you cry, er when? Can anyone tell me how many of these people who wrote an open letter are actually researchers?? I think that you are all arguing over the wrong flavors of cheese!

academic researchers do not run academic institutions, they do research ( sometimes for companies in the case of anything other than a PHD?)?

As to why there should not be an open study into this, it will waste yet more time. This program was supposed to go in within 10 years, with existing Controls on quality already factored in, why should the program for Heathcare IT all of a sudden carry out yet another Audit, the firms involved are not going to get paid until they deliver the systems and therefore nobody is wasting any money, Consultants are like academic researchers I think you will find, they do the jobs that nobody in the companies has either the time or the skills to do!! Simply because Computing magazine(a kind of tabloid for IT professionals or now 20 academics who no nothing about the internal working of the project DEMAND an ADDITIONAL audit why should anyone listen. I think that you will find this is not just ANY Government IT project, let the people in charge (Mr Granger and others) get on with the job and then criticize. I see that the academics who wrote this open letter are going to accept the invitation to a 2 hour open presentation out of a matter of courtesy, that's nice of them don't you think! Perhaps one or two of them could climb down from there towers and take a look at what is happening on ground level.

Anonymous said...

I think you should visit some academic institutions, before making assertions about who runs them or what they do - you may be surprised to find academics not there, but out in the field doing things.
You are welcome to visit the computer lab in cambridge any time, and talk to us about what
we're doing with the NHS, department for transport,
intel or microsoft. you might have to visit us in the field of course, which might be a bit stressful to have your preconceptions all removed in one go.

this constant assertiveness about "academics do X, the NPfIT does Y, never the twain shall meet" is tiresome - the 23 letter writers are asking for a transparent review of a very large government IT project - does it have something to hide that due diligence at any point is a bad thing? shareholders ask no less in large corporate settings. Frankly, I can only assume youve had some bad experience with academics to pour such vitriol without any good reason on folks who are asking that public accountability be had. the NPfIT programme is very ambitious and has some fine things to show - hey, what better thing to do than show it to some _independant_ experts. Or do you want us to request IBM, as a seriously good systems integration company (who I work with:) do it instead? Or microsoft?

The big issue with assertions about the NPfIT is that there is every reason to believe that there are major problems with the interactions between the system and people whether NHS customers or medical practioners -the NHS employees wont blow the whistle on this, because the vitriol you pur on us is as NOTHING to the crap they will get (including being fired) if they breathe a word - we've spoken in private to many - have you? the polls conducted to date are not a good measure.

If you look elsewhere there are pieces of this programme which are working very well, but thats where the technology (e.g. for picture archiving and exchange) is off the shelf, and has fairly limited demands in security and human interaction - actally, the electronic prescription stuff is pretty neat too - but why shouldnt a full public review of the whole thing be done?

BTW, why be anonymous? what have you got to lose by backing up your remarks with afilition?

Jon Crowcroft, University of Cambridge, Computer Lab
Microsoft TAB
Intel TAB
DoComo TAB
PI for BT funded CMI project.
etc etc

Anonymous said...

Is this you, would it not have been shorter to put your link in ?

Thank you for taking the time to bother with me, your not the person to whom my attack was aimed, Jon, the comments were not meant against any Academics in particular, my BSc in Computing is an unpleasant memory, well spotted!

I believe that IBM have already declined to be involved in the Consulting Implementation of this project?

Here's a story released today I think that is a good example of the Witch hunt that has now started; This is the type of thing that I find distasteful, and as to my anonymoity i am shy;) You never know who is going to be reading the achieve of this blog in Ten years time!

How much does NHS IT chief Granger earn? (5 hours ago),39024677,39158130,00.htm

Anonymous said...

Seems reasonable - i dont think attacking people running this is useful and of course a lot of journalism about anything both technical and political is going to be very bad:)

lets see what comes out of yesterday's meeting!!!

Anonymous said...

Meeting held with academics 20 April 2006At the meeting on 20 April between the six representatives of the 23 signatories and NHS Connecting for Health a constructive and fruitful dialogue occurred.
The representatives expressed their agreement with and support for the overall goals of the programme in the meeting. There was agreement that a constructive and pragmatic independent review of the programme could be valuable. The parties agreed to meet again to consider further details of how such a review might best be conducted and its terms of reference.

This is what CFHfIT say about the meeting, now lets see if there is the same spin from Computer Weekly et Al.

Anonymous said...

interesting take on the progress or not of the project;,,2095-2179135,00.html