Failed at the NHS? Try again at HS2: Newly appointed director at rail project has history of 'wasting public money'

 

One of the most heavily criticised men behind the NHS's IT fiasco has been made a director at High Speed Two, the similarly under fire £50bn railway linking London with the north.

Opponents of HS2, who claim the project is a waste of money and will ruin the countryside, reacted with fury this weekend to an appointment they claimed was a "whitewash" and "hysterical". Patrick O'Connell's appointment comes at a time when HS2 is preparing a public relations charm offensive to spell out the benefits of the project, which will cut journey times between the capital and Birmingham to 49 minutes.

HS2 staff were told late last week that Mr O'Connell will soon join them as their programme and strategy boss, but the only part of his resumé that was referred to was his role as chairman at the Oxford Institute for Megaprojects. Up until the end of last year, Mr O'Connell was a senior figure at Serco, the government contractor that has been forced to go through what it calls "corporate renewal", after failing on a range of taxpayer-funded projects.

As well as only recently leaving what is arguably Britain's most vilified company, Mr O'Connell had two stints as president at BT Health.

He was hauled in front of MPs in 2011 to explain the disastrous overhaul of the NHS IT systems, which included developing a standardised electronic care record for every patient. This programme was said to have wasted £2.7bn of taxpayers' money and was a major factor in BT's £1.6bn write-off two years earlier.

Liberal Democrat MP Ian Swales said at the time that the very public embarrassment was "about the management of some kind of superstructure that is going wrong – badly wrong".

A subsequent report attacked BT Health for being "clearly" overpaid and "unable to deliver against its original contract" – although Mr O'Connell was not in charge when the deal was signed in 2003.

A spokesman for the High Speed Action Alliance, which has criticised the coalition for invoking secrecy laws to suppress what is thought to be a damning report into the railway, said: "Along with the Government's desperate attempts to hide the truth on the parlous state of HS2 as a whole, whitewashing Mr O'Connell's career is another example of how HS2 Ltd and the Government [acts] over the failing project.

"Mr O'Connell's role in the NHS IT contract clearly shows that he is used to spending taxpayer money rather than investing it properly. It is hysterical."

At Serco, Mr O'Connell was president of major programmes for Europe and the UK, charged with improving the operational efficiency of the company. The Cabinet Office only deemed Serco to be fit enough to be again allowed to win public sector work at the end of last month.

This followed a string of high-profile disasters in 2013, most notably Serco's role in the £50m electronic-tagging scandal. The state was charged for the supposed tagging of criminals who were back in prison, and even dead.

An HS2 spokesman said: "Patrick O'Connell's appointment as interim Programme and Strategy Director helps to strengthen the team as we move towards the construction phase."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Business Systems Analyst (Retail)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Up to 20% bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An...

Head of Digital Marketing,London

To £58k Contract 12 months: Charter Selection: Major household name charity se...

Lead Hand - QC

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Lead Hand - QCProgressive are recruiting...

Technical Manager / Lead - Mechanical.

£43000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading Br...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice