The national programme for IT is reeling from its most damning verdict yet - this week's report from the Commons public accounts committee that condemns uncertainty over the schedule of implementation and value for money (see news, page 9).

The national programme for IT is reeling from its most damning verdict yet - this week's report from the Commons public accounts committee that condemns uncertainty over the schedule of implementation and value for money (see news, page 9).

What national programme chief Richard Granger has promised and delivered over the last five years is a new robustness to the NHS's relationships with private suppliers. It is testimony to his fierceness that he's elicited sympathy for the kind of multinationals that don't often get pushed around. His success is why the problem with the programme is not largely budgetary, and also why the PAC's calls for trusts to have complete freedom to choose suppliers is wrong..

But his strength has also been his weakness. The NHS cannot be pushed into compliance, and it is now clear that the small number of suppliers involved were not able to form good enough partnerships locally.

The vision of revolutionising NHS IT still holds true. But rather than Connecting for Health gathering forces for a final push, a limbo is developing. Mr Granger is expected to leave soon yet everyone must maintain the fiction that he is still influential.

PAC chair Edward Leigh wants someone to 'get a grip' but there is no clear hand on the tiller during the vital transfer of responsibility to strategic health authorities. It is time the programme, and its pugnacious boss, retired to the sun. NHS chief executive David Nicholson's reorganisation of the NHS/Department of Health control function will be a vital part of that.