Jane Dreaper, the BBC’s Health correspondent, spoke about the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the National Programme for IT [NPfIT] on BBC R4’s Today programme this morning. Today’s longest-serving presenter John Humphrys interviewed Dreaper.
She said that the Care Records Service, the main part of the NPfIT, is at least 4 years behind schedule, and that MPs say the latest completion date of 2014-15 looks doubtful – “and it is the third time that date has been revised”.
She said that MPs on the public accounts committee talk about the uncertainties following the withdrawal of Fujitsu, one of the NPfIT local service providers, and that the national programme is not providing value for money at the moment. “All in all this is a pretty damming report,” she said.
Humphrys asked: “Are they saying it should be dumped? Can it be dumped at this stage?”
Dreaper replied that the the committee’s chairman, Edward Leigh, is saying that there should be a six-month deadline on achieving an improvement and that hospitals should be allowed to apply for funding for alternative systems in six months if the main system cannot be made to work.
“Overall,” said Dreaper, “there is a feeling that this scheme is at a pivotal stage. There are close levels of interest high up at the Department of Health in looking at some of the problems hospitals have recently experienced and seeing whether this system can be made to work. If not I guess then the way forward would be to look at what the alternatives would cost.”
To this Humphrys said: “Presumably they have already spent a fortune on this one?”
Dreaper said the committee wanted more accurate cost estimates and annual progress reports on the timescales. “There is too much uncertainty about all of this,” said Dreaper.
Humphrys: “If they did pull out would all that money be wasted?”
Dreaper: It’s difficult to say. Therer are some bits that have worked and there are parts of the scheme that are already up and running such as the digital archiving of x-rays. So not all of that would be wasted. But there would be tough questions about what how much could be salvaged.
“What’s also significant about today is that we are beginning to hear of significant unhappiness, on the record, from mainstream staff organsiations who have previously been supportive. There is a lot of frustration.”
Warning over fresh NHS IT delays – BBC News
MPs question the future of £12.7bn NHS IT scheme – Computer Weekly today [27 January 2009]
Government IT disasters – a clear case for change – Computer Weekly viewpoint [27 January 2009]
NHS IT warnings the government ignored – Computer Weekly [27 January 2009]