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  

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Excellent coverage, Tony.

My money's on Option 5. Say lots, do little. Right out of Sir Humphrey Appleby's mastery of obfuscation handbook.

Excellent coverage, Tony.

My money's on Option 5. Say lots, do little. Right out of Sir Humphrey Appleby's mastery of obfuscation handbook.

Thank you David. You cynic! It's amazing though how many people think (5) is the most likely option.

(5) is slightly tricky, because the need to write to everyone prior to upload of summary care records makes the continuation of the scheme fairly public. I read Burnham's announcement this afternoon to be the end of the SCR project, as he said it will now be up to local NHS trusts to decide how to be a part of a national system. Killing SCR probably doesn't save a lot of money, but it takes the whole project into stealth mode where the man in the street won't have contact with it.

There is a similar (albeit much smaller) waste of taxpayer's money going on with the NHS National Learning Management System (LMS)- also managed by Connecting for Health.

Instead of developing a secure data transfer standard that would allow off-the-shelf LMS products (of which there are many incuding open source) to communicate with the Electronic Staff Records system, CfH are spending a fortune implementing a monolithic national system which most Trusts feel is being forced upon them and is not fit for purpose.

Just like NPfIT, the costs (especially implemenation) would be much less if these systems were sourced locally (or at least regionally) from a choice of providers thus enabling competition. It's interesting that this government loves to talk about choice and competition within the NHS, yet completely ignores these principles in it's procurement of IT related systems for the NHS.

Ken - NHS Connecting for Health in the true style of many bureaucracies seems to have a penchant for perpetuating itself. That's perhaps why big and central is always better than small and local. We'll ask CfH for a comment on the learning system.


It's not clear whether the summary care record is being scrapped. I would have thought that unlikely, though I could be wrong.

It seems that local service providers CSC and BT may lose the right to supply the Lorenzo and Cerner National Care Records System exclusively in their areas. Burnham said trusts will have the choice.