Parliament slams DoH's handling of NPfIT

By Stuart Sumner
03 Aug 2011 View Comments
Nurses at NHS hospital

Parliament has heavily criticised the Department of Health (DoH) for the failings of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in a new report released today by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The report, The National Programme for IT in the NHS, focuses on the electronic care records system, which has proved impossible to deliver as intended.

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Originally designed to ensure that every patient had a single record that could be shared right across the NHS, the project is now late and over budget.

It is currently a more fragmented system than was intended, relying on individual NHS trusts to develop their own compatible systems, rather than the original single design.

The report recommended that the DoH consider scrapping the project altogether, rather than continue with the remaining multi-billion pound investment.

"The [DoH] should review whether to continue the programme and consider whether the remaining £4.3bn would be better spent elsewhere."

Further criticism was levelled at the DoH for failing to get value from its suppliers.

The report stated the two sub-contractors, CSC and BT, had been paid £1.8bn since 2002, but had yet to deliver much of the contracted work.

In BT's case, the PAC noted that the DoH is overpaying for its services.

"BT is paid £9m to implement systems at each NHS site, even though the same systems have been purchased for under £2m by NHS organisations outside the Programme."

From 2015-16, individual NHS trusts will assume control of the care records systems, but the report states that they do not have the costing information needed to manage them.

This problem will be exacerbated by the fact that the forthcoming health reforms are proposing to dissolve the organisations currently managing the NPfIT.

The report also highlighted the difficulty in reviewing the project, stating that the DoH had been slow to provide the necessary information.

"It is unacceptable that the [DoH] has neglected its duty to provide timely and reliable information to make Parliament's scrutiny of this project possible.

"Basic information provided by the Department to the NAO [National Audit Office] was late, inconsistent and contradictory."

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