The must read stories and talking points in the NHS

Still counting the cost of NPfIT

The National Programme for IT was “dismantled” more than six years ago but will likely cost the NHS millions for years to come.

On 3 October 2017, the Department of Health and Social Care quietly paid multinational tech company Fujitsu £65.2m.

This was more than the DH paid any NHS trust that month, and was eclipsed only by payments to NHS England and other central health bodies.

It is considerably more than the NHS expects to spend on rolling out Wi-Fi this financial year.

However, the payment was not made for services rendered by Fujitsu, at least not recently, but as part of a legal dispute that started during the collapse of NPfIT nearly a decade ago.

The dispute has not been closed and further payments in the tens of millions of pounds are entirely possible.

It has previously been reported that Fujitsu ideally wants the department to hand over £700m.

The firm was responsible for rolling out IT systems to dozens of trusts in the south of England as part of NPfIT.

As with parts of that programme elsewhere in the country, few of the southern trusts received new IT systems and some of those that did weren’t thrilled with the result.

The department cancelled Fujitsu’s £896m contract in 2008 for “poor performance” and the pair have been fighting over who owes what ever since.

This is not the only bill the department is still footing years after the programme was ditched, nor the only failure of a programme once labelled “the worst and most expensive contracting fiasco” in public sector history.

But as the NHS attempts another, albeit far more modest, programme to improve trusts’ IT systems, it serves as a costly reminder not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Beds get a bunk-up

NHS England has confirmed that more than 130 new child and adolescent mental health beds have been commissioned as part of national plans to expand capacity by 10 per cent by 2019.

While many of the beds were marked for London, the south and South West, some will be opened in Yorkshire and Humber and the Midlands as well.

The new beds represent the bulk of the expansion announced by NHS England in March last year, which it will fund as part of the Next Steps for the Five Year Forward View.

When completed, the promised increase by 150-180 beds will be one of the largest expansions of CAMHS in the last 10 years, increasing the existing 1,440 bed base by more than 10 per cent.

The beds will be used to help eliminate out of area placements – when children are sent miles away from home because of lack of beds – and funded through specialised commissioning budgets.

The Care Quality Commission has flagged up problems with accessing CAMHS, while Jeremy Hunt said last year that it was the “biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision”.

Theresa May has also made it a priority and commissioned a green paper on children’s mental health, which is currently out to consultation

But while they have been widely welcomed, leaders admit the new beds will not fix the problems facing CAMHS on their own – community services will have to be expanded to help more children and young people access the help they need.