What's happening with the NPfIT?

Article on ComputerWeekly.com on Alistair Darling’s announcement that the “NHS had a quite expensive IT system that, frankly, isn’t essential to the frontline. It’s something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now …”

It’s quite remarkable how the state of public finances can completely change a government’s perception of the importance and benefits an IT-based change programme. 

Meanwhile the advertisements for NPfIT jobs continue …


These are likely to have been Darling’s options, all of which (apart from (5) are similar:

1) Cancel local service provider contracts on the basis that BT and CSC have not met their delivery schedules. A risky move because the DH and NHS CfH have contractual obligations to suppliers for minimum values of orders. In addition, suppliers have been doing extra work  which could be billed in the event of any dispute. Any dispute puts the government at a disadvantage because history shows that it is not prepared to take a major IT supplier to a full court hearing. A Labour government could, though, initiate a confrontation which the Tories may be left to inherit.

2)  Scale back central funding for NPfIT purchases. It would be left to trusts to fund purchases, though they would have a choice of systems, including Cerner and Lorenzo. This could hit plans to fund centrally systems of choice in the south of England.

3) Stop the NPfIT rollout of Cerner and Lorenzo. This would give choice to trusts to buy from CSC or BT or a range of other suppliers who are on the NHS CfH ASCC framework. This could save large sums as deployments of Cerner and Lorenzo through NPfIT are said to cost twice as much as when the these or similar systems are bought directly.

4) Cut back the central bureaucracy. At one point NHS Connecting for Health employed more than 1,100 people. CfH has now been absorbed into the Department of Health. This is not particularly likely.

5) Announce cut-backs but do little in practice. This has the advantage of being seen to cut back a costly programme; and reduces the size of a potential political target in the run up to an election. This is an attractive option for Labour.


78 comments on Darling’s announcement (at last count) – Times online

More poison pills for the health service? – Colin Beveridge

NHS computer plan to be scaled back – Press Association

The computer says “no” – a tangled web

Disastrously flawed programme – Lib Dems

The beauty of French simplicity – Anna Raccoon