NHS would be ‘better off’ without £12,4bn IT scheme

The NHS would have been “better off” without the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT), according to a document apparently written by a former director for the scheme.

The NHS would have been “better off” without the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT), according to a document apparently written by a former director for the scheme.

Papers apparently sent from the computer of David Kwo, who resigned as  implementation director for the programme’s London cluster in April, warned, "The NHS would most likely have been better off without the national programme, in terms of what is likely to be delivered and when.

It added, “The national programme has not advanced the NHS IT implementation trajectory at all; in fact it has put it back from where it was going.”

Kwo resigned from Connecting for Health, which is overseeing the NPfIT scheme, in April after being suspended earlier in the month while unspecified allegations against him were investigated.

The document sent to Conservative MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Commons public accounts committee, was revealed in the Observer newspaper on Sunday.

It said problems with the new IT system had led GPs to implement their own systems, "fragmenting the national programme further", while hospitals had been forced to deliver "outdated legacy systems which the programme was established to replace", in order to show that something was being done.

Bacon called on prime minister Tony Blair to halt the NHS IT programme, labeling it “his personal brainchild”.

In response a spokesman for NHS Connecting for Health said the programme was “much needed, delivering computer systems and services that will ultimately improve the safety and efficiency of patient care”.

The systems being delivered are for the first time “linking to a national service, which in time will give doctors, nurses and health professionals access to patient information when it is needed most”.

Connecting for Health said it was “not aware of any GPs buying their own systems. If anything our work is raising the standards of functionality and performance of GP systems”.

Serious doubts have also been cast on the NPfIT scheme by 23 academics, who warned that it may not be technically feasible.

In June, in a report that had been delayed by lengthy deliberations with Connecting for Health, the National Audit Office said the programme had made “substantial progress”, but warned that it was too early to tell if the project would give value for money and highlighted “significant challenges ahead”.

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