NSW Health avoids budget disaster on new rostering system

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NSW Health avoids budget disaster on new rostering system

But decade-long HealthRoster project still four years late.

NSW Health has managed to avoid a multi-million dollar blowout on its new state-wide rostering system HealthRoster, despite no obvious changes to its implementation approach.

An annual audit of the government’s health cluster released on Thursday reveals the system, which was finally completed in the first half of 2019, came in just over its original budget of $88.6 million.

This is despite previous estimates suggesting the system was on-track to eclipse it budget by more than 40 percent due to the “large scale and complexity of the full implementation”.

HealthRoster was first approved more than a decade ago to replace the assortment of legacy systems used by local health districts (LHDs) and central agencies, including an out-of-support Kronos system.

It aims to allow for more effective rostering by managers and provides dynamic feedback to the more than 130,000 NSW Health workers across the state.

NSW Health began rolling out the single system, which was developed by specialist healthcare workforce software firm Allocate, to clusters in 2015 after a four-year pilot at Concord Hospital.

During development, however, NSW Health was forced to make two changes to the project, which saw costs skyrocket to $125.6 million and pushed out delivery by years.

A 2018 audit put this was down to the “significant customisation” required to ensure the software met NSW Health’s business needs.

“After cluster one implementation, NSW Health reviewed its implementation approach and concluded that the remaining budget was not sufficient to complete the project due to the complexity and effort required to implement HealthRoster state-wide,” the audit said.

But on Thursday, the auditor-general appeared almost shocked by the recovery, which reveals a massive turnaround in project’s expected spend.

“In our performance audit of HealthRoster benefits realisation in June 2018, we reported that the HealthRoster project had two changes to its budget and timeline,” the audit [pdf] states.

“Overall, the capital cost for the project increased from $88.6 million to $125.6 million (42 per cent).

“The final cost reported by eHealth was well below this at $89.6 million.”

While the result is a major coup for NSW Health’s digital arm, eHealth NSW, which assumed responsibility for the project in 2014, the project was delivered years later than first anticipated.

“The HealthRoster project had delayed expected project completion by four years from 2015 to 2019,” the audit states.

“NSW Health attributes the increased cost and extended time frame to the large scale and complexity of the full implementation of HealthRoster.”

At least one year of delay was previously said to be down to the agency’s decision to host a local instance of the system at each LHD instead of centrally.

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