6 April 2004 Richard Granger, director of the NHS IT modernisation programme, is being lined up for a new, bigger role in government.
The new position is expected to involve the running of major procurement projects across departments, as the government aims to cut costs in central administration.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has heaped praise on Granger for the way in which he handled the ambitious National Programme for IT (NPfIT), which involved the award of IT contracts in the NHS worth £6.2 billion. Many vendors complained about the prices and conditions that he extracted from them — including tough penalties for poor performance — which only enhanced his credibility.
“NHS IT has come quite a long way,” said John Hutton, the minister in charge of the IT modernisation programme, at the Healthcare Computing Conference 2004. “The next generation of IT systems have been successfully let on time and to budget and that has been a major achievement… how enormously grateful I am to my excellent team of officials who have made this happen, ably led by Richard Granger.”
Granger told the conference: “We have set the benchmark, the standard against which other public sector IT procurements are going to be measured globally.” He added that his team had achieved “order of magnitude” savings in the price of some contracts.
One of the largest contracts awarded by Granger was a £530 million contract to telecoms giant BT, to provide and manage a broadband network that will eventually expand to include the entire public sector. Others major aspects of the programme include creating an NHS care records service to improve the sharing of consenting patients’ medical files across the NHS.
But since the procurement phase of the NPfIT is now largely completed, Granger has been playing a more public role. He recently went to China on an official Department of Trade and Industry visit to discuss the workings of the NPfIT and its impact on the delivery of e-health applications and services.
He also has a number of other similar overseas trips planned.
If Granger is appointed to the new role, he will still be involved in the NHS, although the responsibility of managing the contracts already in place would go to Aidan Halligan, deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health.
However, despite the praise given to Granger for his handling of the NHS IT modernisation programme, a new report from the British Computer Society has warned that it may not generate the cost savings envisaged by the Government if tens of thousands of doctors and nurses refuse to change many long-established working practices.
The biggest challenge, concluded the BCS, will not necessarily be the successful technical implementation of the ambitious programme, but making sure that end-users fully understand how the new technology works and change the way they work accordingly.