The Department of Health must “urgently review” whether or not to scrap the remainder of the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), according to the dire verdict of a report by the Public Accounts Committee.
Following a particularly heated parliamentary hearing in May with the heads of the Department of Health, and with lead suppliers BT and CSC’s health division chiefs, the committee has concluded the government should consider cutting its losses in spite of the £2.7 billion spent on care records so far.
The government expects to spend £4.3 billion more on the programme, though it has frequently extensively run over on costs since the scheme’s inception nine years ago.
There have been numerous calls for the government to terminate its IT contracts, but it recently renegotiated BT’s deal and is in advanced discussions with CSC.
CSC, which has a £3.1 billion deal, has missed deadlines and delivered only three acute hospital systems in nine years, but the Department of Health insisted it could cost more to cancel CSC’s contract than continue it. The claim, described as “rubbish” by IT industry experts, was questioned by the PAC, which noted that CSC told its own investors it might not receive as much money as contracted if the deal were terminated.
In April, CSC received an advance payment of £200 million from the government, but Department of Health officials failed to mention it in the hearing or subsequent memos to the committee. The MPs branded this omission as “unacceptable” and said they were “surprised”.
Meanwhile BT, whose contract’s value was only cut by seven percent in return for doing half as much work, was branded as dramatically overcharging the NHS. The PAC said hospitals in the programme were “clearly overpaying” for IT systems, costing £9 million instead of a £2 million price tag elsewhere.