The National Audit Office has been told to continue to monitor the progress of the national programme for IT in the NHS after producing a report which surprised MPs with its positive conclusions.
At the end of a hearing into the NAO's report into the early years of NPfIT on Monday, Commons public accounts committee chair Edward Leigh said the watchdog would be asked to update the committee on its progress.
The report, which had been expected for more than a year, was eventually published earlier this month amid claims that it had been sent back to the NAO six times by NHS IT director general Richard Granger for re-drafting. The report praised 'substantial progress' in the IT scheme but said there were challenges around ensuring that IT suppliers delivered systems to agreed timescales.
Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells Greg Clark asked NAO auditor general Sir John Bourn whether it was true that the report had been 'subject to one of the fiercest Whitehall battles of recent years'.
He also asked Mr Granger whether one of the problems in agreeing its content had been that he felt 'bashful' about the publication of something so 'glowing'.
Sir John replied that NHS IT was a complex subject and it had been important to get the report 'right'. He stood by its conclusions that the programme was soundly based and well managed.
He was more cautious about whether it would deliver care records by its end date in 2010. 'If the recommendations [in the NAO report] are followed, I think it will,' he said. 'But a difficult challenge remains. It will not be easy, although it can be done.'
Mr Granger was more bullish. Although components of the NHS care records service are two years late, he insisted the 'core elements' of the system would be in place by 2010.
He said the contracts signed with suppliers gave them a strong incentive to 'catch up'.
NHS acting chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers told the committee that chief executives will be held personally responsible for the successful deployment of NPfIT systems locally.
Trust chief executives would be the 'senior responsible owner' for the programme in their organisations, and performance would be managed closely.