Is Darling backing away from £600m NPfIT cuts?


Is Darling backing away from £600m NPfIT cuts?

Tony Collins

The Government appears to have changed its mind over cutting spending on NHS IT scheme by £600m over the lifetime of the programme.

Two days ago the Health Secretary Andy Burnham announced to the House of Commons plans to cut £600m from the NPfIT by way of internal cuts and reducing the scope of central contracts with local service providers CSC and BT.

But today's pre-budget report, which is published by the Treasury, refers to only £500m of cuts - and the figure is not specifically tied to the NPfIT, or even the NHS.

The pre-budget report announces £5bn of "additional savings" by 2012/13" which includes £500 million from reducing spend on IT, including by reducing the cost and scope of the NHS IT programme".

The vagueness of this statement allows the Department of Health and the Treasury to cut spending on the NHS IT scheme by any amount they choose.

The Government's lack of clarity ties in with the fact that NPfIT local service providers CSC and BT may not agree to large cuts in the value of their contracts.

The Department of Health declined to comment when Computer Weekly asked whether any cuts in the CSC or BT contracts were guaranteed, given that negotiations to vary the local service provider contracts are continuing.

The Department's spokeswoman said today, however, that Andy Burnham's figure of a £600m cut in the lifetime cost of the NPfIT is still correct and the £500m figure quoted in the pre-budget report is over a different time period.

Even so, if the government wants to rely on the pre-budget report as its financial and political commitment, rather than Burnham's statement during a debate on the NPfIT, it need make no significant cuts at all to the NPfIT, if most of the £500m in savings can be found elsewhere in the public sector.

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