Is summary care record being reviewed because all IT-based projects are being reviewed?

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When NPfIT minister Simon Burns declared in a letter to the BMA that the government was reviewing the summary care records scheme, his announcement came at a good time: GPs were voting at their annual conference on motions to scrap the scheme.

Burns' letter was read out at the Local Medical Committees' annual conference last week. His promise of an SCR review averted a row with local GPs and the BMA.

Now it turns out that the Government is reviewing hundreds of large public sector projects that have a substantial IT element, including the summary records and indeed the £13bn NPfIT.

So Burns was announcing to the BMA a project review that would have happened anyway, as part of Cabinet Office ICT policy.


Burns obtained some good publicity for announcing the review, including an article in the Daily Telegraph. But had journalists - and the BMA - been misled? They hadn't been told that the government had ordered internally a review of all large ICT-based projects and programmes.

This centrally-led review is to see whether the government can cancel ICT-led projects that are significantly over budget, delayed, or the scope has ballooned.

The NPfIT is over budget (the original £6.2bn contracts with local service providers has increased to about £7.5bn), delays have affected the main deployments to NHS trusts of Lorenzo and Cerner Millennium systems, and the scope of the national programme has greatly increased.

So will the NPfIT be cancelled?

That will depend on how hard and credibly the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health argue for continuance of the scheme. But their arguments will be studied with sceptical eyes by the Cabinet Office and Office of Government Commerce - which are advising David Cameron on how to save billions on the annual costs of government IT.

Links:

Electronic medical system to be reviewed - Daily Telegraph

Government to launch sweeping review of summary care records - Pulse 

Government announces review of summary care record - IT Projects Blog

A very rapid betrayal - Ross Anderson 

Dell encourages coalition to continue with the NPfIT - cosmetic surgery

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