It might be thought that self-declared “grumpy git” Richard Granger would be keen to win over certain constituencies but it seems not. The NHS IT boss has sparked a new row by comparing the British Medical Association (BMA) to the National Union of Mineworkers.

According to Granger, the influential doctors’ trades union is a barrier to change in the NHS. “There are some blocks to radical structural change,” he said in a roundtable debate on IT and modernisation hosted by the New Statesman magazine. “I have encountered an incredibly powerful union – comparable to the National Union of Mineworkers – and that is the British Medical Association. We have had very complex demarcation disputes that govern who can order what, who can do what and they get into price per job negotiations... It really is a rate-limiting factor on change in the public sector.”

A BMA spokesman said: “It is a completely unfair criticism. Obviously we have been raising doctors’ concerns about the NPfIT but to suggest that we are being somehow obstructive is completely unfair.” In a subsequent statement, NPfIT said the IT director general’s remarks were not taken from a verbatim transcript and “the full context is therefore missing”. Quite what the missing context is was not offered as evidence.
A MORI poll for the NHS found in January that enthusiasm for the NPfIT had fallen sharply among many health service staff, particularly managers and IT executives. The survey suggested this was in part down to project delays.

Granger also returned to a familiar theme of blaming the media for reporting only bad news, this time claiming that it would reduce wider governmental willingness to take risks. “Our appetite for doing things that are transformational and taking large amounts of risk is going to reduce and we will end up buying in things as commodities after other countries have got them in first.”