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Health service IT boss 'failed computer studies'




Health service IT boss 'failed computer studies'
Health service IT boss 'failed computer studies'



http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1946060,00.html 

By Jo Revill
Health Editor
November 12, 2006
The Observer 

The expert in charge of the government's ailing 12bn computer 
modernisation programme for the NHS might expect to face criticism from 
IT experts, disgruntled doctors and even political opponents. But this 
weekend, it was his own mother who revealed he failed his university 
computer studies course.

Richard Granger, the tough 42-year-old management consultant who runs 
the government's Connecting for Health project, initially failed his 
computer studies course at Bristol University - and took a year off as a 
result. He was only allowed to resit the exam after she appealed on his 
behalf, and he went on to gain a 2:2 in geology.

His mother, Mary Granger, spoke to The Observer about her surprise at 
her son's role in the ambitious initiative that was supposed to 
transform the NHS's computers and allow patient records to be kept 
electronically. She hasn't spoken to her son for 10 years after a family 
row, but she is now campaigning to save the local hospital in 
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, which is losing some services to another 
local trust, and believes the computer modernisation plans are a gross 
waste of money.

'I can't believe that my son is running the IT modernisation programme 
for the whole of the NHS,' she said.

Mrs Granger, a former teacher and local councillor said: 'He was 
disappointed when he failed his computer studies course at Bristol. It 
was pretty serious, so I had to write to Princess Anne, who at that time 
was "university visitor" there to appeal for him to be allowed to resit 
the exam, as initially he was refused permission. He did resit it and he 
passed it.'

Mrs Granger said she and her son had had no contact after rows 10 years 
ago, with her husband Les - Richard Granger's stepfather - and their 
other two children. 'After university he became a management consultant 
with Arthur Andersen [now Andersen Consulting].'

Friends of Granger leapt to his defence, however. One said: 'Richard 
Granger is doing a very difficult job in difficult circumstances and 
he's doing it very well. He does have a tough reputation but he needs to 
be tough to deliver on this complex project.

'He's one of the most well motivated people I've met, and he's certainly 
not doing the job just for the money He feels it's really worthwhile.'

He is the government's highest paid civil servant, earning more than 
285,000 a year. Before going to the NHS, Granger oversaw the computer 
program which introduced congestion charging to London, but he is now 
under growing pressure as some of the biggest IT companies have pulled 
out of the NHS scheme.

A National Audit Office report earlier this year criticised the 
government for failing to win the 'hearts and minds' of the medical 
profession, but broadly supported the project's claim to be running on 
time and budget. The challenges noted by the NAO include ensuring that 
IT suppliers 'continue to deliver systems that meet the needs of the NHS 
and to agreed time limits without further slippage'. This point is 
important because Richard Granger has pinned down suppliers to tough 
contracts on which many are making a loss.

He said yesterday that he could penalise them for late delivery but was 
not doing so in the interest of keeping 'a balance between penalising 
suppliers and letting them cope with work in progress, which they 
haven't been paid for'.

Granger has attracted widespread plaudits in the industry for tight 
management. But at the end of last year he upset some critics in the 
Department of Health, who accused him of running the project as though 
it were a separate barony outside Whitehall control. There were frequent 
changes in the senior officials who were supposed to be managing him, 
exposing the department to potential criticism from parliamentary 
watchdogs for failing make anyone personally accountable.

Mrs Granger, 62, is campaigning against a plan to reconfigure health 
services across West Yorkshire. The Huddersfield Royal Infirmary will 
lose its main maternity unit, and be left instead with a midwife led 
unit which other staff believe will not be safe enough for most of the 
2,700 deliveries that take place there each year.

Other services, including mental health, care for the elderly and most 
routine, elective, surgery are moving to the Calderdale Royal Hospital 
in Halifax.

'I feel dismayed that I'm watching the hospital where I gave birth to my 
children, where Harold Wilson was born, being dismantled. Some of the 
money which goes into Connecting for Health could be saving my local 
services.'


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