The NHS National Programme for IT, which is now budgeted at £11.4 billion, has no chance of delivering value for money and has failed on all of its crucial elements.
That is the verdict of a sharp report, compiled by the National Audit Office, that the prime minister has publicly insisted on assessing before any more deals are signed with suppliers. The report will be followed by Public Accounts Committee hearings and a Cabinet Office report, which will also precede any signature.
In an unprecedented statement, the Department of Health has now acknowledged that "the original vision was flawed".
Last week the prime minister said he was “very concerned” about the project, and warned in effect that the Cabinet Office could intervene and insist that all or part of a £3 billion contract with CSC is cancelled. CSC has promised on a U-turn in strategy, after it missed multiple deadlines on the project and saw one of its key ‘early adopters’ – meant to act as a demonstrate site – walk away from the programme.
Today, the NAO has stated categorically in its ‘Update on the delivery of care records systems’ that the £2.7 billion spent on detailed care records – the central element of the programme – “does not represent value for money”.
“Based on performance so far”, the NAO said, it has “no grounds for confidence that the remaining planned spending of £4.3 billion on care records systems will be any different”.
A total of £6.4 billion has been spent on the entire programme so far, including £2 billion on the systems in place such as the broadband network and a digital X-ray system. Some £1.7 billion has been spent on programme management and local system maintenance.
The programme is now scheduled to be delivered by 2015-16, at least five years later than the original plan. But the NAO warned that even this was “unlikely”, particularly in the North, East and centre of England where CSC operates, because it would require two systems to be delivered every month – after only four were delivered over the last seven years.
Additionally, in an effort to keep the programme moving the department has changed strategy so that some hospitals build on existing systems. Integrating this technology with IT under the National Programme is expected to cost £220 million.