Health select committee calls inquiry into NHS computer project

A committee of MPs has announced an inquiry into the NHS care record service – the core part of the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

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A committee of MPs has announced an inquiry into the NHS care record service – the core part of the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

The Commons health committee will investigate the development of the care records service and the national “spine” on which patient data is to be held, looking into the reasons why delivery of the new systems is running up to two years behind schedule.

The inquiry follows concerns raised by a group of 23 computing academics, who have called for a technical review of NPfIT. The programme has been hit by delays and a series of problems with suppliers. Troubled software firm iSoft, which is contracted to provide its Lorenzo patient records system to NPfIT, admitted it may not survive after declaring huge losses in December. It is also under investigation by the Financial Services Authority.

The health committee will also examine the development of the electronic patient record, what information on patients will be held nationally and locally and whether patients will be able to prevent their data being uploaded onto the system.

The transfer of patient data onto the national spine has been controversial, with the government forced to back down on its original plans to upload full electronic care records onto the spine, without seeking patients’ consent. After protests by doctors, the government moved to a system similar to that being implemented in Scotland, using summary records and allowing patients to opt out.

The MPs will investigate who is to have access to locally and nationally held information, and under what circumstances, whether patient confidentiality can be adequately protected and how data might be used for purposes other than providing care, such as medical research.

The committees’ hearings will begin after the parliamentary Easter recess.

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