Care.data needs urgent action to succeed, warns watchdog

NHS scheme one of 20 government projects considered to be failing, reveals Major Projects Authority

The NHS's care.data project is failing and requires urgent action, according to a government project watchdog.

The Major Projects Authority (MPA) rated the patient data collection programme as red in its review of all government projects' performance in 2014-15.

Care.data is a Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) project to share patient medical records between hospitals and GP surgeries, and announced the launch of a number of pilots this month.

But it received the worst rating possible in yesterday's MPA annual review, and must improve in five key areas if it is to be taken off the list of red projects, which denotes those currently deemed to be failing.

It must first complete its business case assurance, before completing its pathfinder pilots and recieving approval to roll the scheme out more widely.

NHS England must then plan the project's national roll-out, determine priority datasets to include in the programme, and outline a risk management strategy so the hazards are understood and well-managed.

Regarding the pilot phase of the programme, which will begin this summer, the MPA wrote: "It will provide key information from which the programme team can learn and assess the impact before progression into a wider roll-out.

"No data will be extracted from GP practice systems including during the pathfinder' until such time that the national data guardian is satisfied."

Care.data is just one of 20 schemes the MPA identified as at risk of failing, giving them either a red or an amber/red rating.

Red denotes projects where successful delivery appears unachievable, and amber/red denotes those whose success is in doubt.

The Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) IT Transformation Programme is rated amber/red, as it seeks to replace expiring legacy contracts with flexible deals that avoid vendor lock-in.

But the MPA said seven of nine previously made recommendations have been carried out, predicting the remaining will be resolved soon.

It added: "A number of contracts have been successfully re-competed resulting in savings over existing arrangements, notably Security and Networks.

"The remaining activity is continuing to plan with a number of contract extensions agreed to facilitate safe transition to the new services as they go-live."

However, Universal Credit, the government's scheme to roll six different benefit payments into one, is also rated amber/red after being re-set in the MPA's report last year.

With the total lifetime cost of the project now approaching 16 billion according to the latest stats, the delivery is now considered on track against the re-set project aims, said the MPA.

Other struggling schemes include the Home Office's Technology Reset Programme, which aims to increase the flexibility of the department's technology as its main IT contracts expire in 2016.

The MPA wrote: "Significant financial and solution / plan risks for the programme remain. The programme is working closely with Government Digital Service (GDS) to ensure the right level of disaggregation and is potentially looking to re-use GDS's solutions from their recent disaggregation."

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