MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have seen a demonstration of the delayed "Lorenzo" software - a key part of the NHS's National Programme for IT - ahead of a hearing in the House of Commons today (16 June 2008) on the £12.7bn scheme.
The hearing comes as Morcombe Bay, the first NHS trust due to go live with the Lorenzo system revealed it had put its plans to go live with Lorenzo today on hold.
The Lorenzo software, which is due to help provide 30 million people in Midlands and the North of England with an electronic care record, is pivotal to the success of the NPfIT.
Morecambe Bay Hospitals NHS Trust and two other early adopters of the software, Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and South Birmingham PCT, have issued a statement saying that "deployment testing is identifying technical issues which are being resolved on an ongoing basis".
The three hope to go live this summer with Lorenzo Release 1, but they gave no commitment on any date in their statement.
MPs on the Public Accounts Committee, including the chairman, Conservative MP Edward Leigh, saw a demonstration of Lorenzo last Wednesday (11 June) at Richmond House in Whitehall, the headquarters of the Department of Health.
But the demonstration did not allay the concerns of all the MPs present. The Lorenzo software is already running four years behind schedule, according to the report of the National Audit Office which was published on 16 May 2008.
Richard Bacon, one of the MPs present at the demonstration, said that seeing a system apparently working on a single large screen did not necessarily prove it would work when used by doctors and health staff across many PCs at various hospital sites that form an NHS trust.
Ministers have tried to counter criticism of delays with the Care Records Service by giving series of dates when the first sites will go live. But the dates for go-lives have been deferred repeatedly.
The Public Accounts Committee is scheduled to have a hearing on the NPfIT this afternoon. MPs are due to question David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS and Gordon Hextall, chief operating officer at NHS Connecting for Health.
One concern of MPs is that some NHS trusts may be pressurised to go live with a system that is not ready to meet promises made by ministers and the Department of Health's financial contractual commitments to local service providers.
The committee is also expected to question Peter Hutchinson , group director of UK Public Services at Fujitsu, on why the company decided to withdraw from negotiations over a contract re-set that triggered the early termination of its £1bn NPfIT contract.