BMA demands urgent public inquiry into IT

Doctors' leaders have ordered the BMA to demand an urgent public inquiry into the NHS IT programme.

A motion at the BMA's Annual Representatives Meeting (ARM) in Torquay said the 'exorbitantly expensive' programme was 'doomed to fail'.

Devon LMC chairman Dr Charlie Daniels said: 'This £12.4 billion project is the world's largest civil IT programme. Key elements are years late, suppliers are in trouble and the costs are escalating.'

He reminded the conference that a senior figure within one of the IT programme's local service providers had told a Health Select Committee inquiry that the programme 'isn't working and isn't going to work'.

Dr Daniels said the DoH had failed to engage clinicians in developing the programme, and that the imminent departure of the programme's chief officer Richard Granger had created a 'window of opportunity'.

'It is doomed to fail unless a firm grip is taken - we need a public inquiry,' Dr Daniels said.

'We and our patients will be the biggest losers if it all goes tits up.'

Doctors at the conference backed the move despite opposition from GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey and other senior GPs. A similar motion failed at the LMCs conference.

Dr Vautrey said a public inquiry would be slow and expensive and that it could undermine efforts to work with Connecting for Health.

GPC member Dr Grant Ingrams said it would only 'state the bloody obvious', highlighting delays and development problems GPs were already aware of.

'Connecting for Health is listening now, and NHS IT is no longer doomed to failure,' he said. 'We don't want an inquiry to tell us what we already know.'

But Dr Daniels argued: 'We do need a public inquiry. We know what the problems are, but the DoH won't listen. This is the only way the BMA can get its message across.'

Connecting for Health was unavailable for comment.

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