Services supplier CSC has paid penalties of about £5m following delays in the deployment of patient administration software across several NHS trusts under the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
The disclosure undermines claims by NHS Connecting for Health and the Department of Health in a briefing paper to the prime minister in February 2007 that "much of the programme is complete, with software delivered to time and budget".
NPfIT regional minutes seen by Computer Weekly show that CSC has made penalty payments following delays in rolling out software in the North, Midlands and East of England, where it is the NHS local service provider.
CSC declined to comment, but briefing papers to an NPfIT board in the North West say the penalties relate to "the financial consequences arising from deployment delays". Suppliers to the NPfIT face penalties if software is late or they miss contractual milestones.
CSC is due to supply NHS trusts with iSoft's Lorenzo patient administration and electronic record system under the NPfIT.
CSC has worked with trusts to deploy limited interim versions of iSoft's patient administration systems following delays in the "strategic" Lorenzo releases, which could provide joined-up health systems across England.
Helen Bellairs, chief executive of Western Cheshire Primary Care Trust, told the NPfIT board of the North West Strategic Health Authority that although there have been some successes, there were several "major issues" with the National Programme.
They include "continuing delays in the availability of the Lorenzo system, which undermines the credibility of the whole of the NPfIT".
She said, "In the meantime, existing suppliers continue to develop their products, which makes it even harder to persuade trusts to move on to Lorenzo."
A CSC spokeswoman said, "Information relating to penalties either paid by or requested by CSC are confidential and not something we can comment on."
She added that the Lorenzo development was continuing "on plan".
"We are in the final stages of agreeing the roll-out of this new platform, with the first release being available in 2008
"The current CSC Patient Administration System is an administrative system and has limited clinical functionality. The first release of Lorenzo [in 2008] will provide clinical functionality. We have demonstrated Lorenzo both within central Connecting for Health and to many hundreds of clinicians," said the spokeswoman.
An NHS Connecting for Health spokeswoman said, "We are not aware of any penalties paid by local service providers due to delays in deploying new systems to trusts. A framework does exist to manage changes in deployment and both suppliers and the NHS continue to work together to manage any changes in planned deployments."