The multi-billion pound NHS IT programme is to be dramatically scaled back in the pre-Budget report.
Chancellor Alistair Darling will announce on Wednesday that part of the NHS IT programme will be shelved as he seeks to slash public spending to get borrowing back under control.
The budget for the IT programme, which has been beset by delays and heavily criticised by opposition parties, has risen to more than £12bn.
The chancellor is expected to target only aspects of the programme that he does not deem essential to the NHS front line. Savings are likely to run to the hundreds of millions.
Mr Darling indicated that the IT programme was in the firing line when he came under pressure today to flesh out plans for public spending cuts.
“I do think it is necessary for me to indicate areas where we are going to cut spending or where we’re not going to spend as much as we were,” he told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1.
“You know, for example, the NHS had a quite expensive IT system that you know, frankly, isn’t essential to the front line.
“It’s something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now.”
Treasury officials stressed later that only part of the IT programme was on the line and it would not be scrapped altogether. More details will be given on Wednesday.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “This is another government IT procurement disaster, it just shows you can’t trust Labour on spending efficiency.”
The IT programme would computerise medical records in a central database and link more than 30,000 GPs to nearly 300 hospitals.
It would provide an online booking system, a centralised medical records system, e-prescriptions and fast computer network links between NHS organisations.