Conservative Conference: Tories to open NHS IT up to more competition

The NHS National Programme for IT will be exposed to more supplier competition and less centralised under a Conservative government, the shadow secretary of state for health said at the party conference today.

The NHS National Programme for IT will be exposed to more supplier competition and less centralised under a Conservative government, the shadow secretary of state for health said at the party conference today.

Andrew Lansley said the party would not consider scrapping the £12bn programme, saying, "We cannot just walk away because contracts have been awarded. We would end up paying a shed load of money for nothing.

"I do not think people in the health service want it scrapped. They want it to work for them."

He said the project needs to be more exposed to competition and more "user-oriented".

"A central problem with a big computer project is that it is not built around the needs of users," he said.

The Conservatives would aim to make the project less centralised, he said. "The approach should be more bottom-up rather than top-down, so the IT is owned more locally.

"Ideally, we want something based on common protocols and standards, but where all the hardware and software was open to competition."

But he added the changes would be difficult, because of how far the programme has already gone. "The structure of the programme has made opening up to competition more difficult. A lot of money has been committed to central procurement."

His comments came the day after the Conservative party published its plans for improving the NHS.

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