Tories renew their call for a full review of the NHS's National Programme for IT

Senior Tories have had a meeting to discuss their strategy over the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. It’s understood that among the topics discussed was the question of whether the Tories should take a radical stance, or simply renew their call for a review of the scheme.

They decided to renew the call for a review.


The Conservative Shadow Minister for Health Stephen O’Brien MP referred to the need for a “zero-based” review. The phrase zero-based means, say the Tories, “from the bottom, in that we would review the design as well”.

O’Brien said:”The Conservatives promised a zero-based review before the last election. That promise stands. It is time for the Government to swallow their pride and follow our lead.

“It is disappointing that the NHS Chief Executive [David Nicholson] has ruled out a review. I welcome the U-turns the Government has already made, but they do not go far enough. The programme must engage front-line professionals, patients and the public, and a zero-based review is fundamental to that”.

The statement added: “The Government has delivered notable u-turns, for example it is now offering an opt-out from having a summary care record uploaded to the Spine. It is also moving towards the localism and open provision long championed by the Conservatives – for example through GP systems of Choice: ‘NHS Connecting for Health (NHS CFH) has announced that it has started the procurement process for the framework for its GP Systems of Choice (GPSoC) scheme. An OJEU (Official Journal of the European Union) notice has been published and the process is expected to take around three months.’

‘Under GPSoC, family doctors will able to choose between using systems provided by their Local Service Provider (LSP), keeping their existing GP clinical system and undergoing upgrades as they become available, or moving to another supplier’s clinical system…

“While David Nicholson ruled out a review, it is clear from what he said that he agrees with the Conservative’s position. It seems likely that Ministers prevented him undertaking a review, fearful of their mistakes being exposed. In the HSJ on 1st Feb 2007 it was reported he said three issues needed to be addressed:

– NHSification’ of the programme – i.e. ownership from the front line, including levers to tackle the ‘clash’ between a national programme and the need for it to be delivered locally.

– The scope of the programme, which he saw as ‘too much, on far to big a waterfront’

– The ‘Bunker Mentality’ that CfH has built around it.

The Conservatives say they have:

– Consistently called for the power to be given to local providers to choose the IT most suitable for them – an interoperability rather than uniformity paradigm.

– Challenged the mission creep of the programme

– Challenged the soviet tractor production figure style of Connecting for Health’s attitude to answering questions.

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