Since I left government at the end of last year, the only shuffle I’ve been concerned about is the button on my ipod that plays random tracks from my music collection. Today was the first time I’d really caught up on antics at Cabinet level. Putting aside whether it was or wasn’t a botched job, there are some interesting times ahead.

Patricia Hewitt, almost a part of the furniture at the dti (lovingly called “the department of total incompetence” by Angela Vivian [who died only just over a year ago] and now renamed “the department of Probably Eternal Incompetence”) has moved to run Health. Mrs Hewitt will inherit a big job, priority one of which might be to get a handle on the NHS IT programme.

Accenture announced in April that they were down about $150 million because of, I assume, missed deadlines and the consequent penalties (plus inevitable need to keep a team running longer). Today’s Independent, in an article about the abuses that management consultants are guilty of, notes the case of the e-booking system – that has purportedly cost £200 million (I’m pretty sure that’s not true) but has made only 63 bookings against a target of over 200,000. That same article in the Independent also suggests that the cost of the programme will rise from £6bn to perhaps £30bn (I’m not sure that’s true either, but I don’t have any better data).

Gossip in the industry and amongst the headhunter community says that BT will be the next one to announce they’re up against it and that they’ll be looking for new people to look after things. The NHS programme is (and always was) one of the hardest jobs to pull off in IT. The groundwork has been laid with the procurements and contract lettings, but the delivery side has struggled with complex integration work between multiple suppliers, near impossible stakeholder management and difficult technology deployments, plus one or two other obstacles, like the EMIS issues.

Will there be a shuffle on the NHS client side? Patricia Hewitt, although I’ve never met her, looks to be very different from John Reid and might not interact in quite the same way with the folks running the NHS IT show for her. Want to place bets on some early exits this summer?

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