The government will have spent more than £6bn centrally on the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) by the end of this financial year, in April, according to figures released to the Conservatives yesterday.
The figure is for the spending by NHS Connecting for Health - which is part of the Department of Health - and excludes any portion of the £3.6bn which the department expects NHS trusts will spend on the NPfIT. NHS trust boards have spent their own budgets on training - and retraining when deployments have been repeatedly deferred.
Trust boards have also spent millions of pounds of their own budgets on putting right problems after the installation of NPfIT systems.
Releasing figures to Conservative shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien, the NPfIT minister Mike O'Brien made it clear that spending on the National Programme was much less than budgeted for. In 2008/09, for example, NHS Connecting for Health spent about £1bn, whereas its budget was about £1.5bn.
But the Conservatives point out that the deployments to NHS trusts have been far fewer than planned, because of delays in delivery of NPfIT patient administration systems, and concerns among trust IT executives about whether NPfIT products have been fit for purpose.
Last year the cross-party House of Commons Public Accounts Committee expressed doubts on whether the NPfIT represented value for money.
"We are not yet convinced that the department secured good value for money by letting contracts which covered the NHS as a whole," said the committee in a report in January 2009. The committee's MPs were concerned about the lack of successful deployments of the Cerner Millennium system and Lorenzo system from iSoft and CSC.
The new figures on NPfIT spend exclude "capital charges", which the government has declined to specify or explain.
Mike O'Brien said that expenditure plans for years beyond 2009-10 are "currently being reviewed in the light of announcements made in the pre-Budget report, and of the evolving IT needs of the NHS".