MPs of the main political parties have expressed concerns over the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and have joined leading computer scientists in calling for an independent review of the scheme.
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An early day motion before parliament, which was initiated by a Liberal Democrat MP and signed by Labour and Tory MPs – including two members of the Health Select Committee – called on the House of Commons to note with concern the contents of a recent open letter signed by senior computer scientists.
The scientists had written to the Health Committee calling for an independent technical audit of the NPfIT. Their letter expressed concern over the lack of concrete objective information, delays in the delivery of core products, and possible shortfalls in the scheme’s funding. But it chiefly questioned the wisdom of continuing the NPfIT without an independent assessment of its basic technical viability.
The early day motion noted with concern that the projected initial cost of the programme was £2.3bn, but it may in the end cost between £15bn and £30bn to implement.
It added that NHS trusts were facing estimated deficits of between £600m and £1bn, and it called on the secretary of state to “set up an independent review of the project to ensure that any savings identified are directed to cash-strapped NHS trusts”.
Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office is expected, after nearly a year of delays, to publish a report on the NPfIT in mid-June.
But the report is unlikely to answer the question of whether the project’s original aims, including the adoption by the NHS of a national electronic patient record system, will be met. This is one reason leading academics and MPs want a separate independent review of the programme.