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NPfIT costs include £3m on hotels and business travel

Tony Collins

Contracted costs of the NHS's IT programme include more than £1m with a hotel reservations agency, nearly £2m with a business travel company, and £150m with consultancies - for two of the six years the scheme has been running.

>> Read more on NPfIT

The figures released by the Department of Health under the Freedom of Information include contracts worth more than £2m with three public relations firms - and a further £30,000 with a press cuttings agency.

The released documents show that central costs of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) are substantial and rising, despite at least four years of delay in the roll out of e-records, which is the main part of the scheme. NHS Connecting for Health says the central costs are "appropriate and necessary" and that the NPfIT is making progress.

Auditors at the National Audit Office last May estimated the total central costs of the NPfIT to be £1.59bn, which excludes the contracts with local and national service providers, and local spending on the programme.

The NAO did not explain the £1.59bn figure, but NHS Connecting for Health has released a limited list of its central contracts and their values - those entered into between November 2005 and November 2007.

Figures for the other four years the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) have been running are not available.

The released figures are only part of the total spend on the programme's running costs. For instance the NPfIT absorbed £31.56m in lawyers' fees between its inception in 2002 and 30 November 2006. But the released figures show that only about £5m was spent on legal fees between 2005 and 2007.

The released figures include:

  • £1.23m with Expotel Hotel Reservations
  • £1.87 Harry Weeks Business Travel
  • BT conferencing - £1.15m
  • Intercall video conferencing - £274,973
  • MWB (Serviced Offices) - £15.8m
  • Regus - offices and meeting rooms - £3.17m
  • Spring International Express (courier and other services) - £192, 662
  • Cision UK (press cuttings) - £30,000
  • Fishburn Hedges (includes public relations) - £559,310
  • Good Relations (public relations] - £1.55m
  • Porter Novelli (public relations and information) - £943,000
  • ASE Consulting - £31.7m
  • Capgemini - £15m
  • Deloitte MCS - £42.8m
  • Atos Consulting - £32.3m
  • Gartner - £3.8m
  • QI Consulting - £14.5m
  • Tribal Consulting - £6.9m

NHS Connecting for Health said in a statement to Computer Weekly that the costs listed are appropriate and necessary for an organisation which is delivering one of the most complex transformations of healthcare anywhere in the world.

Health officials said the released figures were contract values - which did not mean that all of the money had been spent. But they declined to say whether they had spent less than the contract values.

Connecting for Health said: "Costs incurred by CFH staff and contractors for travel and hotels are necessary and rigorously approved. Special rates are obtained to make substantial savings. Expotel were contracted to provide hotel and conferencing solutions, so the figure referred to includes costs for conferences and staff accommodation.

It added: "The £1.8 million for Harry Weeks business travel includes train, air and hire cars for NHS CFH staff or contractors. All travel is by standard class unless exceptional circumstances apply.

"Intercall video conferencing - video and voice conference is used extensively in order to minimise travel requirements.

"MWB serviced offices. This figure includes an advance payment which has ensured that the rents for the following year were substantially discounted making a further saving to the public purse.

"Regus offices meeting rooms. £3.1 m rent is included in this figure and cannot be separated out as this is commercially sensitive however our rates are considerably lower than those of commercial organisations."

* Tonight, 9 March, the Channel 4 Dispatches programme is to broadcast a documentary on government projects including the NPfIT. The programme's researchers, who enlisted the help of Computer Weekly, have investigated why the NPfIT had an announced cost of £2.3bn which rose to £6.2bn and later £12.7bn.

Dispatches - How They Squander Our Billions - 8pm on Monday 9 March on Channel 4


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