Richard Granger: The Last Word

CIO magazine, a specialist business IT monthly published by IDG, is running an exclusive two-part in-depth interview with Granger who puts his side of the story just as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has announced a wide ranging review of the NHS that may see the National Programme scrapped.

Without doubt the largest and highest profile civilian computer project in Europe, not to mention a huge challenge for any chief information officer, the National Programme has been marred in controversy as NHS IT is refreshed and a national electronic patients' records system introduced. Reports of delays, design flaws, cost overruns, poor supplier selection and management, lack of consultation with NHS staff, leaving the job half done and Granger's direct management style have all hit the headlines.

Janice McGinn, editor of CIO UK, spoke to Granger before his resignation from the controversial programme, an interview which provides a fascinating insight into his views and thinking.

Granger on budget over runs

"I'm underspent, not over budget and one reason I am underspent is because some of my programme is running late. All sorts of wild numbers are being produced, the best one being ?50bn from Tory MP Richard Bacon. At the end of March 2007 we had actually spent ?1.5bn."

Granger says the scope of the current programme is far larger than the original plan. "One thing completely missing from the 2002 Strategy was picture archiving. Subsequently many doctors and patient groups lobbied me for that saying it was a big omission. So, I went to the Treasury and they gave me another ?1 bn to do it, " he says. "I really don't know which school of budget management some of these people come from, but that is not going over budget. That is a change in scope."

Granger on his NHS critics

"There is a little coterie of people out there who are alleged experts and who worked on this programme... they are no longer within this tent but outside it making it wet."

Granger on the media

"Stuff goes wrong all the time. You know, computers do fail. But what we're seeing is a sort of hysterical coverage. What I should be judged on is whether we're fixing it quickly and ensuring it's as good as anything else anywhere on the planet. Measure me on those things and I know we will not be found lacking."

Granger on supplier relationships

"One of the things I've been careful not to do in the NHS is create the supplier Stockhausen syndrome." That is, when things go pear shaped, the CIO goes native, sticking slavishly to an agreed line with the suppliers, covering assess and, usually, paying extra for the privilege. "One supplier asked for an extra ?500m to deal with cost overruns. He received a succinct refusal…."

Janice McGinn, says, "Granger is very disillusioned with his treatment and the UK and his public and frank comments provide real insight into the man and what has actually gone on with such an important national project. His views make compelling reading."

The full interview is available in the July edition of CIO UK and available online from July 9, 2007.

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