Ministers have today pledged to hasten the demise of the National Programme for IT after a Cabinet Office review found that it could not deliver on its original aims.
However it is still not clear how much value can be recovered from the multi-billion pound contracts to deliver electronic care record systems, which make up the bulk of the programme’s £12bn cost.
The Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority reported today that the project had delivered some success, including the NHSmail email system, the Choose and Book system for GPs and the Picture Archiving and Communications Service.
The successes accounted for around £4bn worth of NPfIT spending, the authority said.
However their review concluded that overall the scheme “has not and cannot deliver to its original intent”.
A statement issued by ministers today said: “In a modernised NHS… it is no longer appropriate for a centralised authority to make decisions on behalf of local organisations.”
But, the statement goes on: “We will continue to work with our existing suppliers to determine the best way to deliver the services upon which the NHS depends in a way which allows the local NHS to exercise choice while delivering best value for money.”
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “The National Programme for IT embodies the type of unpopular top-down programme that has been imposed on front-line NHS staff in the past. Following the Major Projects Authority review, we now need to move faster to push power to the NHS frontline and get the best value for taxpayers’ money.”
A statement on the future of the £3bn CSC contract, to install electronic patient records systems into the north, Midlands and eastern regions, was originally pencilled in for September but is now expected “this autumn”. The contract has been blighted by delays and faults in installing iSoft’s Lorenzo system.
Renegotiations, involving both the Department of Health and the Cabinet Office, are ongoing.
It is not yet clear whether any of the remaining value of the contract will be clawed back and devolved to trusts to spend on procuring their own IT systems.
A new partnership with Intellect, the Technology Trade Association, has also been announced today. The body will work with government to “explore ways to stimulate a marketplace that will no longer exclude small and medium sized companies”.
Former NHS Chief Information Officer Christine Connelly told the Commons Public Accounts Committee in May that the CSC contract would be more expensive to pull out of than stay in.
In August, the DH told HSJ that they would not be terminating the CSC contract, but would be finding new ways to get better value for money from it.