Socialist Worker

Fujitsu privatisation failure could cost the NHS a fortune

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2624

System failure—Fujitsu was handed an £896 million contract to digitise patient records

System failure—Fujitsu was handed an £896 million contract to digitise patient records (Pic: U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole)


IT giant Fujitsu could be about to snatch hundreds of millions of pounds from the NHS.

The multinational’s raid on public money follows its ten-year legal battle over a terminated contract with the Department of Health and Social Care.

The settlement could be as high as £400 million, according to the Digital Health news website. And it would come on top of a payment of at least £65 million to the company in October 2017.

The NHS has already been left with legal costs running into the tens of millions of pounds.

Fujitsu was handed an £896 million contract to digitise patient records in the south west of England in 2002. Within six years, it had only managed to install the IT system in nine acute hospital trusts in the region.

The National Programme for IT (NPFIT) was a showpiece of Labour prime minister Tony Blair’s plans to “modernise” the NHS.

Sums

His free market policies were based on handing private companies large sums of money to build new hospitals and install new equipment.

Yet Fujitsu’s record forced even the New Labour government to terminate the contract in 2008.

The company had already managed to snatch £151 million in its six years of failing to fulfil the contract. But it was determined to get its hands on more cash—and sued the government for £700 million in “loss of earnings”.

When the Tories got into office in 2010, they tried to cobble together a back room deal but ended up in arbitration.

The final terms have now been agreed after the arbiter’s decision in July 2014.

But the settlement is being held up because of another dispute between Fujitsu and another NPFIT supplier, according to the Health Service Journal.

Fujitsu isn’t the only company that is getting money from the NHS.

The Department of Health is paying tens of millions of pounds a year to DXC Technologies, which took over NPFIT contractor CSC.

The payments are part of a deal struck in 2012 to get the government out of the contract.

The Tories are desperate to lay the blame solely on Labour—and to keep pushing through damaging policies.

Health secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the IT programme had “failed pretty catastrophically and millions of pounds were wasted”. But he warned that the NHS should not “learn the wrong lessons”.

For Hancock the “wrong lesson” would mean blaming privatisation, not just a few bad companies.

Fujitsu shows up the catastrophic consequences of the privatisation drive within the health service.

Stopping the rip-offs means throwing out all of the private companies taking money off the NHS and using it to fund publicly-provided healthcare for all.

 


Nurses slam leaders for making shoddy pay deal

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have overwhelmingly backed a vote of no confidence in their leadership for misselling this year’s pay deal.

Some 78 percent voted for the no confidence motion at an emergency general meeting in Birmingham last Friday.

Their decision vindicates all those in Unison and other health unions who opposed the pay deal.

Andy, an RCN member in east London, told Socialist Worker, “People in other unions will be buoyed by this.

“The time to fight is now.”

Increase

Health workers were promised a 3 percent pay increase in 2018-19.

But this was broken into two stages for those who have not reached the top of their pay bands—1.5 percent in August and 1.5 percent on their pay increment date.

This means that unless a workers’ pay increment date was on 1 April, they won’t get the full 3 percent increase this year.

The RCN leadership is still trying to cling onto office.

Andy said, “If they don’t stand down there will be another push against them.”

“But we have to be careful not to make this just about getting a new left wing leadership at the top of the union.

“The key thing is pushing to reopen the pay deal.”

Activists in Unison, Unite and the GMB should use the RCN vote to pressure their union leaders to work together to reopen the pay deal.


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