NPfIT work put on hold until reports are released

By Parliamentary reporter
13 May 2011 View Comments

Prime Minister David Cameron has frozen further development of the troubled NHS patient record system pending crucial reports from the National Audit Office, the Commons Public Accounts Committee and the government's own Major Projects Authority.

He signalled the standstill in the Commons after being warned against "squandering" £4.7bn of unspent remaining funding. The NPfIT has cost £6bn so far.

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His response to a challenge during Prime Minister's Questions was taken as an indication that all or part of the programme is likely to be cancelled in its current form.

The response followed a question from Tory MP Richard Bacon, a senior member of the PAC on reports that the government was to sign a software contract with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC).

Cameron said: "There are no plans to sign any new contract with Computer Sciences Corporation until the National Audit Office report has been reviewed and until the Public Accounts Committee meetings and the Major Projects Authority reviews have taken place.

"The Department of Health and the Cabinet Office will examine all the available options under the current contract, including the option of terminating some of, or indeed all of, the contract."

Only BT, responsible for London and a few other hospitals in the south, and CSC, responsible for the north, the Midlands and the east, remain of the four original main suppliers.

CSC took over when Accenture walked away in 2006 after suffering heavy losses. The NHS is still involved in litigation with the fourth supplier, Fujitsu.

Bacon had warned "that the NPfIT will never deliver its early promise, that in particular CSC has failed with Lorenzo and that, rather than squandering £4.7bn that is still unspent" the government should negotiate a way forward that frees the funds to be used for the benefit of patients.

Cameron also voiced concerns around spend on the programme, saying: "We are very concerned that the NHS IT projects that we inherited were of poor value for money, an issue we raised repeatedly in opposition. 

"Since coming into government, we have reviewed projects with the intention of making the best of what we have inherited. In part, as a result of our work, the government has cut £1.3bn from the cost of NPfIT, including planned savings of at least £500m from CSC."

Bacon said afterwards he was "very pleased" with Cameron's response because much of the £6bn already spent had been "poorly spent".

He claimed CSC's Lorenzo software "doesn't work".


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