Geoffrey Sampson


Whistleblowing for Health

The paper downloadable here records my experiences as one member of a group of British computing professors who played a part in an extraordinary episode (well, I hope it was extraordinary) in the history of information technology. When I sometimes feel gloomy about what I have achieved in life, I comfort myself with the thought that my small share in the NHS 23 saga must correspond to a quantity of public money saved rather than squandered that would cover my education plus forty years’ salary many times over.

To quote the abstract:

This paper offers a concise account of what was possibly the largest-scale failure ever in the history of software engineering, namely the British National Health Service “Connecting for Health” project. The failure offers important lessons about the rôle of professional expertise and the impotence of authority in the software development process.

A fuller write-up of this episode has now been placed online by students of Ross Anderson, a leading fellow-member of the NHS23 group. And see also (though it was written before the project was acknowledged as a failure) Sean Brennan’s book The NHS IT Project: the Biggest Computer Programme in the World … Ever! (Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, 2005).

Geoffrey Sampson

last changed 13 Aug 2014