NHS IT given six months to shape up

The National Programme for IT has been heavily criticised by a government report.

The NHS IT upgrade programme needs to be sorted out within six months, or hospital trusts should be allowed to look elsewhere for their tech needs.

This damning criticism was delivered to members of Parliament by Edward Leigh, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. This was alongside a report which looked at the progress or lack of it in the 12.7 billion National Programme for IT (NPfIT), since 2006.

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"The risks to the successful delivery of the National Programme for IT are as serious as ever. Essential systems are late or, when deployed, do not meet expectations of clinical staff; estimates of local costs are still very unreliable; and, despite action to secure their commitment, many NHS staff remain unenthusiastic," Leigh said.

"It is also worrying that, if trusts decide not to deploy the patient care records systems, the taxpayer can still be obliged to make payments to the suppliers concerned," he added.

Leigh said that although many of the smaller systems are in place and functioning well, the largest and most important ones such as the digitised care records system are "way off pace," and unlikely to hit even the revised deadline of 2015. The report showed that as of the end of last August, the new care records system had been rolled out to just 133 of 380 health trusts.

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"If there is no improvement to this situation within six months, then the Department should consider allowing trusts to apply for funding for alternative systems," Leigh said.

Leigh highlighted the departure of two of the four providers, Fujitsu and Accenture, as a major blow to the NPfIT. "The Department of Health must determine what this means for the strength of its negotiating position and whether the remaining two suppliers can continue to meet their substantial commitments," Leigh said.

In a statement, the Department of Health said: "New IT systems in the NHS are delivering better, safer and faster care. Current costs have declined because of the delays to implementation due mainly to adding extra functions to the system. Costs are also controlled by the contracts which only pay to providers once the service has been successfully delivered."

Click here for more on the NHS IT programme.

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