Lack of capacity among suppliers has led to things “going wrong” with the £12.4bn NHS National Programme for IT and is still a risk, senior officials have admitted to MPs.
NHS chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers, director of IT implementation Richard Jeavons and Richard Granger, chief executive of Connecting for Health, which runs NPfIT, received a grilling at a Commons Public Accounts Committee hearing on Monday to examine the National Audit Office’s report on NPfIT on Monday.
The MPs were sceptical of the “almost universally positive tone” of the NAO report, described by Greg Clark MP as “easily the most gushing” he had seen, and turned the heat on the officials.
Pressed by committee chair Edward Leigh, Caruthers admitted the two year delay in introducing a national clinical record service – a core part of NPfIT – was a decision taken because “some suppliers were having difficulties meeting the timetable” and clinicians wanted to pilot the scheme.
Granger was forced to agree with Leigh that suppliers were showing “signs of strain”.
In a heated exchange, Austin Mitchell MP challenged Granger, “You’ve got Accenture with an estimated half a billion dollar losses, you’ve got iSoft going belly up fairly soon, IDX which is blamed by BT and Fujitsu, from which BT wants to walk away and you’ve got Cerner brought in which I’m told is able only to support one hospital in one region using its standard software yet its been stretched to two regions.”
Granger replied, “We’re trying to do a lot very quickly... We’re trying to catch up with around 20 years of underinvestment in the NHS.”
Pressed by Mitchell, he added, “There is a shortage of capacity in the IT industry and we have had to bring in a lot of resources, from India and the US in particular and some things have unfortunately gone wrong as a consequence of that with some of those suppliers.”
It would “continue to be something that requires attention”, he said.
Granger told MPs that if subcontractor iSoft went bust, prime contractors Accenture and CSC would have to “put money or human resources in” to bolster delivery.