Labour to delay electronic patient record

Chancellor Alistair Darling is expected to scale back the NHS IT programme, including the electronic patient record, in Wednesday's pre-budget report.

Chancellor Alistair Darling: electronic patient record will be delayed (Photograph: HM Treasury)

He told the BBC yesterday that the electronic patient record system was ‘something we don't need to go ahead right now' as the government contemplates cuts to services.

Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lamb said: ‘The whole programme has been disastrously flawed from the start. It has held back the development of IT at a local level, cost billions and is running years behind schedule. Labour has been in denial for years and this is a belated and partial recognition of the scale of their failure.

‘The truth is that the national programme should be abandoned in its entirety, subject to existing contractual obligations, and instead we should start building from the bottom.'

Shadow Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansley said: ‘After seven years Labour has finally acknowledged what we've said for years, that the procurement for NHS IT was costing billions and not delivering. The opportunity cost to the NHS also measures billions of pounds.

‘This is another government IT procurement disaster, it just shows you can't trust Labour on spending efficiency.'

But Dr Grant Ingrams, chairman of the GPC's IT subcommittee, said the system currently scheduled to come into effect would result in the NHS saving money.

‘It's an essential tool for clinicians, for doctors and other staff to be able to treat patients,' he said.

‘The NHS pays out a third of a billion pounds a year on mistakes; a lot of that could be put right if the IT was in place.'

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