The government’s multi-billion National Programme for IT in the NHS has made substantial progress, but continues to face significant challenges, a report released by the National Audit Office today has concluded.
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The NAO report found that the government would have to work to ensure that timetables did not skip further and that NHS organisations and staff bought-into the programme.
“The Programme promises to revolutionise the way in which the NHS uses information to improve services and patient care. But significant challenges remain for the Department and NHS Connecting for Health,” said Sir John Bourne, auditor general.
Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, described the report as worrying reading.
“We now know for the first time that the £6.2bn announced as the cost of the project over 10 years is wrong. NAO analysis indicates that this is only half the story and that a figure of £12.4bn is nearer the mark,” he said.
Leigh said the project had failed to win the hearts and minds of the staff who work in the NHS.
“Many staff, including GPs, are alarmed and dispirited by having the new systems imposed by diktat from above. They are often confused about what the new systems are going to do and when,” he said.
The NAO called for the government to commission a study to measure the impact of the programme on NHS spending, assess the benefits and cost savings, and provide an overall investment case for the programme.
It urged the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health to offer greater clarity to the NHS on the programme’s timescales.
NHS organisations should communicate to members of staff how the timetable will affect them and forewarn them of challenges, it said.
NHS Connecting for Health should continue its strong management of suppliers’ performance, including its imposition of contractual penalties where needed.