NHS IT chief Christine Connelly hits back at critical National Audit Office report

Department of Health director general for informatics Christine Connelly has hit back at a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) which slammed the NHS patient record systems as a waste of public money.

Department of Health director general for informatics Christine Connelly has hit back at a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) which slammed the NHS patient record systems as a waste of public money.

Speaking exclusively to Computer Weekly, Christine Connelly said the Department of Health disagreed with the NAO's conclusion. "We find it difficult to understand how they can be so clear that there is no value for money," she said.

In the highly critical report published last week, the NAO described the care record systems rolled out under the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) as having fallen far below expectations - an accusation Connelly denies.

"The department has not accepted the report so there are quite a number of things we disagree with," Connelly said.

In a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting on Monday this week, the department also disputed some of the numbers quoted in the NAO's findings, such as a claim that the NPfIT projects in the south of England cost 47% more than in other regions.

David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, told MPs at the PAC meeting that the NAO was comparing apples with oranges and had not taken into account the additional functionality of some systems compared to others.

"There are a lot of numbers in the report that we disagree with," Connelly told Computer Weekly.

"We have a consistent position with each of our suppliers and we understand each other's numbers. But both CSC and BT don't understand the NAO's numbers. So we need to get to a position where we can convey to the NAO this is the set of numbers you should be looking at," she said.

"I don't want to be critical of the NAO, but you can take a set of numbers and analyse them and depending on how you do that you come to a particular viewpoint."

The Department of Health said it intends to work with the NAO on the processes it uses to derive the figures.

"I'm sure there are things that we could do better and I'm sure there are things they could do better as well," said Connelly.

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