Scottish Parliament Condemns NHS 24 Service Failings

Members of Parliament have suggested that there has been a fundamental mismanagement of the NHS 24 service in Scotland.

And MPs have also highlighted a £41.6 million overspend in the IT system utilised by the service, while calling for an investigation on the subject.

NHS 24 is Scotland’s national telehealth and telecare organisation. This special health board runs a telephone advice and triage service that cover the out of hours period.

The IT system, which is yet to be completed, was budgeted at £75m, but is currently forecast to cost £117m.

Commenting publicly on the issue, the Public Audit Committee concluded that managers of the service should be ashamed of the failings and serious incompetence which had led to the current situation.

The overarching opinion on the matter was that the existing NHS 24 Service is nothing short of “a complete mess”.

Despite massive problems with IT related to this critical aspect of the Scottish health service system, it seems that there is no obvious light at the end of the tunnel.

In particular, there is still no launch date for the system, while Interim boss Ian Crichton said it could end up costing up to £125m.

While the economic performance of the Scottish health system has been suggested by recent figures to be adequate, this is nonetheless an expensive embarrassment that ministers wish to be addressed as soon as possible.

Former chief executive John Turner said he was “very sorry” that the system had not yet been delivered, saying his final years in the job were “very tough”.

Turner had signed the original contract for the IT system back in March 2012, and claimed that senior colleagues at the organisation had failed to offer sufficient advice.

Fundamental flaws had gone unreported for a period of nearly two years, while Turner also claimed that “other, more junior staff were aware of omissions” in the contract, of which he was not informed.

Committee convener Paul Martin suggested that the overspend on the system is so profound that nearly 2,000 nurses could have been recruited with the money wasted.

Labour MSP Richard Simpson said in terms of IT, there was a “fractured, dysfunctional system across the NHS”.

In fact, in an unusual instance in the Scottish Parliament, there was something of a cross-party consensus on the issue, with MPs from all major parties agreeing that the system had been grossly mismanaged.

When responding to questions regarding whether anyone had been sacked over the matter, the aforementioned Crichton stated that “the chair of the board is no longer there, the chief executive is no longer there and the chief finance officer is no longer there.”


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