NPfIT delays give local NHS trusts a financial planning headache

Delays to the NHS' £6.2bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) are creating financial planning difficulties in local NHS trusts.

Delays to the NHS' £6.2bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) are creating financial planning difficulties in local NHS trusts.

Board papers from West Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority reveal how delays to the hospital systems supplied by the programme are making financial planning "extremely uncertain".

They specify an allocation for the authority of £6.8m from Connecting for Health (CfH), which runs the programme. Also, £11.4m of the SHA's internal funds were allocated to implement CfH products in financial years 2004/05 and 2005/06.

However, delays to the NPfIT mean this funding will need to be stretched over at least one extra year. It was unlikely Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust would receive suitable systems before the end of 2008, according to board papers. Other hospitals would be in a similar position, they said.

"Delays to product delivery have also made forward planning, and therefore any associated financial planning, extremely uncertain... If further funding is not forthcoming then it is possible that the [Leeds] Trust will not be in a position to implement CfH services," said the papers.

CfH products, including online appointment booking and electronic health records, are central to the push to improve choice and productivity in the NHS.

News of the planning problems comes as a Health Service Journal survey of 70 acute trust chief executives shows confidence in the NPfIT is at an all-time low.

Paul Goss, a director at health IT consultancy Silicon Bridge Research, said changes to financial plans would make trusts "look quite closely at what they are getting for their money."

He said because of high staff turnover and change within NHS organisations, some money on training and raising awareness would have to be spent twice because of programme delays.

The indications are that similar problems are likely to exist in hospital trusts in the East, North East and North West & West Midlands clusters of the programme.

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