The multi-billion pound NHS IT upgrade is “not looking good” and requires urgent remedial action, an influential group of MPs has warned. Doubts over the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) – the biggest civilian computer project in history – are rife among staff and the benefits are still unclear, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Chairman Edward Leigh urged the Department of Health to get a grip before the scheme slid out of control. NPfIT is expected to cost £12.4bn by 2013/14, making it the biggest civilian computer project in history.
Committee chairman Edward Leigh said that the Department of Health “must get a grip on what it and the NHS are spending”. “It must thrash out with its suppliers a robust delivery timetable in which everyone, including local NHS organisations, can have more confidence.Urgent remedial action is needed at the highest level if the long-term interests of NHS patients and taxpayers are to be protected.” Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien said that doctors and nurses “were left out of the planning and design of the NHS IT programme”. “Costs have risen, delays in the delivery of software has lengthened, and all because local NHS chiefs were not given enough flexibility in implementing the IT,” he added. “Patricia Hewitt must be held to account for this. She has presided over a cash crisis and growing staff disillusionment in our NHS. “A beleaguered IT programme can now be added to her portfolio of failure. Yet I fear that even this stinging report will not make Patricia Hewitt see sense.” For the Liberal Democrats, health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “There can be no doubt that ministers’ plans have gone badly wrong. “The government has put IT in the NHS in a centrally controlled strait jacket.” He called for an “immediate end to further spending on the project, along with an independent inquiry”.
This is another healthcare issue which PRimage has made frequent blog comment on – and the sagas continue. Judy Viitanen believes that the Public Accounts Committee are totally justified in issuing these criticisms, and agrees that the whole project is in need of urgent remedial action. Few in the NHS would argue that if successful, NPfIT will revolutionise the way the NHS in England uses information, but as PRimage has commented previously, the programme has been beset with probems – and it appears that IT suppliers are still struggling to deliver effective systems. The net result of all these sagas and problems, is that the project is falling still further behind schedule.