The NHS is estimated to have spent £331 million less than it planned last year on the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT.
Spending is tied to how much suppliers have delivered, and the NHS is four years behind on the summary care record rollout, having temporarily stopped the rollout after some early adopters experienced serious problems.
In the 2008 to 2009 financial year, the NHS is estimated to have spent £586 million, as opposed to a budget of £917 million, health minister Ben Bradshaw told MPs.
In all five years since the start of the programme, the NHS has consistently under-spent. In 2007 to 2008, the NHS under-spent by £229 million, in 2006 to 2007 by £466 million, and in 2005 to 2006 by £769 million. Total underspend since 2005 has been £1.8 billion.
Planned expenditure on the programme this year is £800 million, but this figure is “subject to revision in light of the evolving IT needs of the NHS”, Bradshaw said. It has spent £3.5 billion so far.
A spokesperson at Connecting for Health, which runs the national programme, said payments are not made “until we are fully satisfied safe and workable systems have been delivered”. Underspends mean “the taxpayer's money is being protected”, the spokesperson said.