Whitehall reaction to NAO report on the NPfIT - updated

The Department of Health in its reaction to a report by the National Audit Office on the National Programme for IT [NPfIT] gave no hint it would do anything differently if it were to launch the scheme again – which suggests that senior advisers in Whitehall and ministers have learned little from the programme’s problems.

The NAO report cautioned against a “focus on achievements rather than what remains to be done”. Despite this, the Department’s statement focuses on achievements and not what remains to be done.

In a statement the Department of Health said: “The Department regrets that one of the elements of the Programme, the care records service, is taking longer than was published as a tentative timetable in 2002.

“We have said before that this is due to a mixture of technical complexity and to allow further time for consultation and the development of the Care Record Guarantee, to meet the concerns that patients may otherwise have felt about the confidentiality of their records.

“The new IT systems in the NHS are on course to deliver better care and an estimated £1.14 billion in savings by 2014.

“The National Programme for IT has already delivered a total of £208 million in savings by providing quicker, more efficient and convenient patient care. As a result, every year 5,000 more patients are able to have their procedures performed because in the past 20% of X-ray films used to go missing.”


The Department of Health’s statement on the NAO’s report on the NPfIT gives off the pungent smell of hubris. The statement makes it easy to understand why the government has a reputation for not learning lessons from its big IT-related change programmes. The Burmese government says it is coping well with the disaster in its midst. Surely the Department of Health doesn’t want to inhabit the same parallel universe?

NHS Connecting for Health has added a comment on the NAO report on its website:

“The National Audit Office (NAO) has published its second report on the National Programme for IT, called ‘The National Programme for IT in the NHS: Progress since 2006’, on Friday 16 May 2008.

“The NAO’s overall conclusions are that:

the Department of Health is taking action to progress all the recommendations which it accepted from the Committee of Public Accounts report.

all elements of the Programme are advancing and some are complete, though delivering a nationally-specified Programme into the highly-devolved NHS continues to be an enormous challenge. For the NHS Care Records Service, the original timescales proved to be unachievable, raised unrealistic expectations and put confidence in the Programme at risk. While the Programme costs have largely held, the timetable for the NHS Care Records Service has slipped.

the original vision for the Programme nevertheless remains intact and still appears feasible. The major outstanding challenge is to finish developing and deploying the care records systems that will help NHS Trusts to achieve the Programme’s intended benefits of improved services and better patient care.”


National Audit Office reports in full

Some NPfIT major issues – did Prime Minister get full briefing in 2007?

Downing Street’s original three-years timeframe for the National Programme for IT

NHS Connecting for Health will stand by Lorenzo