Richard Bacon, a member of the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee, says the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT] is in crisis. The Public Accounts Committee is expected to meet next month to question civil servants on the report of the National Audit Office on the NPfIT.
Richard Bacon said:
“The latest National Audit Office report could not be clearer. The £12.7 billion national programme for IT in the National Health Service is in crisis. The report shows that key systems are late and show little or no sign of ever being produced in any useful form. While systems that are suitable for central deployment such as the N3 broadband link and the Picture Archiving Communications Systems for digital x-rays have made good progress, the serious problems lie with the really complex systems for acute hospitals where central control is manifestly not working.
“The crisis is a direct result of the original foolish decision made on a No 10 sofa – to allow the programme to be held hostage by a tiny group of Local Service Providers and their preferred software suppliers. The Government has recently produced a new list of additional suppliers – but NHS Trusts that choose their systems will still have to foot the bill themselves. This cannot be allowed to continue: billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be wasted and the consequences for our health service and for patient care will be dire. The best suppliers must be allowed to compete to sell their systems directly to NHS Trusts, without penalty. The Government must then make sure that these systems are connected to National Data Spine, one of the few parts of the programme that seems to be working.
“This flagship project, born in No 10, is now in grave danger of sinking with all hands. But does the Prime Minister have the nerve to change course?”
Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said:
“The National Programme for IT was always going to be challenging. But, over time, the Department of Health has had its eyes opened to its enormous scale. And by building unrealistic expectations for delivery, confidence in the whole Programme has been damaged…
“Progress has been made and the Programme is advancing. But there is still a huge amount to do. Considerable delays, especially in the development of the Lorenzo care records system in the North, Midlands and East area, has meant that time and money have had to be spent on an interim system.
“Commitment from NHS staff is central to the success of the Programme. A lot of them are indeed putting in effort to make the systems work. But much more work needs to be done in convincing NHS staff of the benefits that should arise from a fully functioning system.
The current timescales for the care records systems to be fully deployed by 2014-15 had better be realistic. The Department can’t afford further knocks to the Programme’s reputation or our confidence in it.”