latest health care news

10.05.19

New emergency services radio system to be at least £3bn overbudget and three years late as Home Office failings blasted by NAO

An overhaul of the communications system used by the UK’s emergency services will be at least £3bn overbudget and three years late, a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.

The Emergency Services Network was created to replace the current system Airwave, but the Home Office has already delayed its delivery by three years until 2020 when it decided to “reset” the programme in 2017.

Originally due in 2019, the Home Office forecasts the ESN will cost £9.3bn, 49% more than initially planned, with £1.4bn just being spent on extending the old Airwave system.

But now the NAO has cast doubt on the ESN’s forecasted costs and delivery dates, and stated that the current £3.1bn overspend is a direct fault of the Home Office’s management.

The damning report said its management of this critical programme has led to “delays, increased costs and poor value for taxpayers,” and said that the Home Office was “in danger of needing another costly reset unless it gets its house in order.”

Emergency services have communicated through Airwave’s dedicated digital radio network since 2000, but in 2011, home secretary Theresa May signed off on plans to buy the cheaper and more efficient ESN.

The NAO said it recognised that the Home Office’s reset had addressed some of the programme’s major issues by introducing a staged rollout, replacing a key piece of technology, strengthening its management team and processes, and re-negotiating contracts.

But the government’s spending watchdog warned that serious risks still remain, and that it believed the forecasted costs to be “highly uncertain” and that it is highly sceptical that ESN will be ready by 2022.

It pointed out that the required technology to allow police, fire and ambulance services to communicate effectively on the system is not yet ready, and that the Home Office is yet to come up with a detailed plan of how it will integrate different elements of the technologies.

It said the Home Office does not have the capability it needs to integrate and test ESN and that whilst it expects the new network to be cheaper, the NAO said the savings will not outweigh the costs until at least 2029.

The Home Office says that ESN will bring £1.5bn in financial and economic benefits by 2037, although police representatives told the NAO they had not agreed these figures.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The success of the ESN is critical to the day-to-day operations of our emergency services that keep us all safe.

“The Home Office needs a comprehensive plan with a realistic timetable that properly considers risks and uncertainties. It has already been through one costly reset and is in danger of needing another unless it gets its house in order.”

Image credit - BrianAJackson

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

national health executive tv

more videos >

featured articles

View all News

last word

Hard to be optimistic

Hard to be optimistic

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, warns that we must be realistic about the very real effects of continued underfunding across the health service. It’s now beyond more > more last word articles >

health service focus

View all News

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

13/06/2019Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

Nurses have been named as the most under-appreciated public sector professi... more >

interviews

How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

24/10/2018How can winter pressures be dealt with? Introduce a National Social Care Service, RCP president suggests

A dedicated national social care service could be a potential solution to s... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Urology nurses are leading the way in adoption of prostate cancer biopsy technique

11/07/2019Urology nurses are leading the way in adoption of prostate cancer biopsy technique

Jonah Rusere, Advanced Nurse Practitioner for South East London Accountable Cancer Network, outlines an opportunity for urology nurses to make a difference to prostate cancer ... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

editor's comment

25/09/2017A hotbed of innovation

This edition of NHE comes hot on the heels of this year’s NHS Expo which, once again, proved to be a huge success at Manchester Central. A number of announcements were made during the event, with the health secretary naming the second wave of NHS digital pioneers, or ‘fast followers’, which follow the initial global digital exemplars who were revealed at the same show 12 months earlier.  Jeremy Hunt also stated that by the end of 2018 – the 70th birthday... read more >