Health minister Alan Milburn has ordered the speedy publication of an allegedly damning report on a crisis-hit NHS computer project amid reports of a cover-up.

The draft report by the National Audit Office on the multimillion pound Read Codes project has been with Department of Health officials since last January.

Mr Milburn's intervention follows reports last week that the NAO blamed officials for the year-long delay.

The report is believed to examine the potential conflict of interest surrounding the role of James Read, the inventor of the codes, as former chief executive of the NHS's centre for coding and classification.

Dr Read, a former GP, was a majority shareholder in the company that had exclusive rights to sell the product.

A DoH spokesperson denied there was a cover-up, saying 'the complexities of the report have meant it has taken so long to come out'. Publication is expected in the spring.