MPs demand reforms after pounds 20m bungle: Cross-party group denounces Wessex health authority. Chris Blackhurst reports - UK - News - The Independent

MPs demand reforms after pounds 20m bungle: Cross-party group denounces Wessex health authority. Chris Blackhurst reports

TENS of millions of pounds of NHS money that could have been spent treating the sick was wasted on a grandiose computer project, MPs concluded yesterday.

In one of the most strongly worded reports published by a cross-party group of MPs, the Public Accounts Committee severely criticised executives at the Wessex Regional Health Authority for spending pounds 43m on an information system that was eventually abandoned. Questions about the scheme were first raised by the Independent and Computer Weekly.

MPs said it was a 'a matter of grave concern that, by the management executive's own admission, at least pounds 20m was wasted' between 1984, when the plan started, and 1990, when it was scrapped. 'This money should have been spent on health care for sick people.'

The 210-page report presents a litany of bungling, incompetence and possible deceit. In 24 sharply phrased conclusions, the committee repeatedly voices its 'concern' and 'dismay' at the behaviour of the Wessex RHA management.

Apart from embarrassment that its much-vaunted health service reforms should have gone so spectacularly off the rails in this instance, the Government also comes in for direct criticism. It was 'unacceptable', the committee said, that 'although a series of auditors' reports were presented to the management executive and the Secretary of State between February 1987 and August 1989, detailing what had gone wrong in the implementation of the project, it was not abandoned by the Regional Health Authority until 1990'. Successive Secretaries of State for Health during that period were Norman Fowler, John Moore and Kenneth Clarke.

Even if much of the blame could be attached to John Hoare, the Wessex regional general manager, the committee said 'fundamental changes are needed in the management and accountability arrangements at regional health authorities'.

Not only did the RHA management dispute the auditors' findings, but they were able to conceal vital details from members of the authority and management executive. MPs criticised both bodies for 'allowing themselves to be kept at arm's length for three-and-a- half years over the mismanagement of this project'. This was 'a serious failure on the part of the regional health authority to secure accountability from the then regional general manager, and a failure on the part of the management executive to act with sufficient urgency'.

Some of the key criticisms centre on the role of Andersen Consulting, the firm that advised on the software at the same time as it was bidding to supply the core computer system. Andersen was awarded the consultancy at an inquorate meeting of the RHA. The firm's contract contained no quality provisions and no maximum price.

Andersen's belief that there was not a conflict of interest is dismissed. 'It is clearly wrong for somebody who is tendering for NHS business also to be advising the NHS as their consultant.'

The dangers posed by the NHS's increasing use of consultants are also vividly highlighted. At Wessex, they were not adequately controlled, and their advisory contracts were not put out to tender.

Wessex Integrated Systems, the company that won the right to operate the health authority's computer services, had a contract guaranteeing 15 per cent profits, regardless of performance, and minus any controls. Also, if the company failed, the RHA was to step in - something the MPs describe as a failure to protect the public interest.

Measures taken by the RHA did not reflect the seriousness of what occurred or prevent it from happening again. Mr Hoare should have been disciplined - 'indeed, we have to say that we regard it as unsatisfactory and surprising that none of the main parties involved in the waste of pounds 20m has suffered any significant form of disciplinary measure'.

In future, non-executive members of RHAs must be of 'sufficient calibre and experience to bring independent judgements to bear on key decisions'. What was needed was 'clearer lines of accountability and control'.

It was also important, concluded the MPs, that 'all health service staff respect the fundamental principles of public business in this country, and are judged, in their own performance, by the standards of honesty, openness and fair dealing that are expected in public life'.

The MPs said concern for those standards must play a large part in staff recruitment and training at all levels.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week