The NHS IT programme has been labelled 'one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector' by MPs on the House of Commons public accounts committee.
In a report published on Tuesday, The dismantled National Programme for IT in the NHS, MPs said the IT plan had cost around £10bn to date and delivered estimated benefits worth a fraction of this amount.
Contracts with IT suppliers mean the cost of the programme to the NHS will continue to rise beyond the current £10bn estimated cost in the coming years, MPs warned.
Public accounts committee member Richard Bacon MP (Con, South Norfolk) said: 'We still don’t know what the full cost of the National Programme will be.'
He said that future costs to the NHS of the Lorenzo IT system, likely to be adopted by just 22 NHS trusts, were unknown. The cost of cancelling a contract with IT company Fujitsu for providing a care records system in the south of England were also unknown, he added.
But in the last four years, legal costs for the DH associated with the termination of the deal had reached £31.5m, the report says.
Benefits resulting from the programme have to date been far below its total cost, the report adds. It says: 'The benefits to date from the national programme are extremely disappointing.
'The department’s benefits statement reported estimated benefits to March 2012 of £3.7bn, just half of the costs incurred to this point. The benefits include financial savings, efficiency gains and wider benefits to society (for example, where patients spend less time chasing referrals).
'However, two thirds of the £10.7 billion of total forecast benefits were still to be realised in March 2012. For three programmes, including the care records programmes in London and the South, nearly all (98%) of the total estimated benefits were future benefits. The department acknowledged that insufficient attention has been paid to securing benefits. The risk of benefits not being realised has increased with the transfer of responsibility for benefit realisation to NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts from April 2013.'
The report adds: 'After the sorry history of the national programme, we are sceptical that the department can deliver its vision of a paperless NHS by 2018.'
'Making the NHS paperless will involve further significant investment in IT and business transformation. However, the department has not even set aside a specific budget for this purpose. As with the national programme, it will be important to balance the need for standardisation across the NHS with the desire for local ownership and flexibility. The first ‘milestone’ towards the ambition of a paperless NHS is for GP referrals to be paperless by 2015.'