The National Audit Office will publish next week the results of its latest investigations into the NPfIT.
Its report on 18 May is the NAO’s third on the NPfIT. Publication will be followed remarkably quickly by a hearing of the Public Accounts Committee on 23 May.
Those due to be interviewed by the Committee's MPs include the health CIO Christine Connelly and David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, who is also senior responsible owner of the NPfIT. MPs will also question representatives of BT and CSC, which together have about £5bn worth of NPfIT contracts.
One of the MPs on the Public Accounts Committee is Conservative Richard Bacon, who knows more about the NPfIT than any other MP, including ministers.
His letters to Connelly have drawn some tetchy responses, perhaps because they have pointed to the poor value for money of a £546m deal between NHS Connecting for Health and BT; and Bacon has asked Connelly to hold off signing a memorandum of understanding with CSC until the committee has considered the value for money of CfH's proposals.
It will not be surprising if Connelly, in answering Bacon’s questions, sounds as defensive as a head teacher being criticised by a well-informed, concerned parent.
Nicholson has no choice but to defend the NPfIT. It was not so long ago he was quoted in a Department of Health press release as saying of the NPfIT: “We’ve made really solid progress against delivering an integrated IT system for the NHS, which is not only making us more efficient, but is helping our clinicians and staff deliver better, safer services for patients”.
Defending the NPfIT has been part of Nicholson’s remit since he was appointed NHS Chief Executive in 2006. His manner during questioning may reflect the fact that he is a top civil servant, and Bacon is only an MP.