NHS IT Governance should not be swept under the carpet

It is interesting to note that the “spin-free” new administration of Gordon Brown may be making moves to sweep the NHS IT reform programme under the carpet. The recent resignation of the forthright Richard Granger at Connecting for Health has removed a lightning rod for the project and it is now reported that two of its most vocal government supporters have been moved to other roles.
Here is the striking thing: OGC (Office of Government Commerce) is the developer and owner of two world-recognised best practice frameworks: Prince2, for managing IT programmes and IT projects, and ITIL, for IT Service Management. Prince2 was developed to help government IT projects come in on time, to budget and on specification. ITIL focuses on the need to understand customer (i.e. user requirements) and to develop and deliver services that align with business needs. Both are part of a normal IT governance framework, and both have quite signally failed in the NHS Connecting for Health programme.

We’ve seen Grainger go, and others moved on, but we haven’t seen any overt attempt to rectify the governance failures that led to the current parlous situation in which a national project is behind timetable, over budget and not meeting specification. A delivery-focused government would start off by overhauling the governance framework put in place for this framework, not just on changing faces – maybe Brown and his ministers need a lesson – from one of their own departments – on how these things should be done.