MPs condemn NHS IT project

The NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is disliked by GPs, hopelessly over-budget and has no clear purpose, according to the Houses of Commons committee which oversees public expenditure.

The attack, which echoes many of the complaints made by health professionals, came in a report issued this week by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Committee chairman and MP Edward Leigh (Conservative) said: ‘The programme is not looking good. Scepticism is rife among the NHS clinicians whose commitment is essential to its success.’

The programme was established in 2002, started operation in 2004 and is supposed to last 10 years. However, as the report pointed out, it is already in trouble and is damaging the reputation of the DoH.

The report declares: ‘The DoH has much to do to win hearts and minds in the NHS, especially among clinicians. It must show it can deliver on its promises (and) respond constructively to feedback from users in the NHS.’

It adds that the system is unlikely to show ‘significant benefits’ before 2014. It currently only works in limited areas and the software on which the system was supposed to be based, is at least three years overdue. Meanwhile, costs have risen astronomically and are now estimated to be around £12 billion.

Despite the investment, support has drained away alarmingly — particularly among GPs.

The report said that GPs were unhappy, because they were not given a choice over which IT system would be supplied to them.

Conservative MP for South Norfolk Richard Bacon, a member of the PAC, said that Connecting for Health, the agency res- ponsible for NHS IT, was a ‘nightmare’ and should be wound up.

Dr Richard Vautrey, lead GP negotiator on IT, said: ‘None of this is a surprise to us. The system was badly thought out with poor clinical engagement.’

However, he did not think Connecting for Health should be scrapped.

Evidence to the committee included a survey backed by GP and put together by Medix UK. It found that three quarters of GPs thought that NPfIT was a waste of money (GP, 24 November 2006).

Health minister Lord Hunt said: ‘This report is based on a National Audit Office (NAO) report that is now a year out of date. Since then substantial progress has been made and the NAO recommendations have been acted on. Costs of the programme have not escalated’

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