In perhaps one of the most predictable outcomes from splashing the cash on an expensive new IT system, it turns out that the NHS's new General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) has cost over £40m and yet only has one customer able to use it so far.
The GPES is designed to enable NHS organisations to more easily access data from GP offices - but so far, despite the huge budget (which was originally set at £14m), only NHS England has been able to access data using it.
Mercifully, this means that "one customer" actually refers to "one organisation" rather than just one bloke in an office, but it still isn't good news as it means the various other tentacles of the NHS are currently locked out. It is apparently hoped that Public Health England and the NHS's Clinical Commissioning Groups will gain access later this year.
The finding was made by the National Audit Office, which also reports that the system is long overdue, having originally been planned for 2009/10. Worse still, the suggestion is now that the project will only get two years worth of usage out of it, before systems have to be updated yet again, presumably to account for changes in technology.
Big IT failures aren't exactly a new phenomenon - and this latest mess-up will no doubt renew calls for a smarter approach. Dr Ben Goldacre has already weighed in, arguing that an open source, standard driven approach, on to which developers can build locally relevant apps would make more sense:
this is why we need open API’s, open data, open source, shared mapping ontologies &c: permit innovation AND inter-op https://t.co/neACXPFS5q
— ben goldacre (@bengoldacre) July 1, 2015