The government is planning to cut £600 million from the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT in the NHS.
The announcement was made by health minister Andy Burnham in parliament yesterday as he tried to clarify remarks at the weekend by the chancellor, who last weekend told the BBC, that the NPfIT was “something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now”.
Burnham said the government was in discussions with its lead suppliers BT and CSC to cut back teh programme and allow greater local choice of care records systems
“We have no intention whatsoever of cancelling the programme overall, not least because it is already making the NHS safer, more efficient and more convenient for patients,” the minster said. “However, we are discussing with our suppliers potential reductions to the scope of the systems and the cost savings that could be generated.
Burnham strongly defended the national programme, citing as successes the deployment of digital X-ray systems, electronic transfer of prescription systems and GP systems as the key successes.
He did not respond to Tory MP Richard Bacon, a member of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, who pointed out that these successes either pre-dated the NPfIT, or were added after the contracts for core systems were initially let.
Neither did he answer the point raised by Liberal Democrat MP David Heath, who asked, “Do the enormous compensation counter-claims by suppliers of which we read represent a contingent liability against the NHS? If so, does that mean that they will be paid at the expense of front-line services?”
Despite praising the success of the NPfIT and promising to cut £600 million from its costs, Burnham had to admit to MPs that he did not know how much had been paid out by the government for the systems so far.