NHS IT would cost '£4.5bn more' if national programme was scrapped

The government has claimed the NHS would have to spend £4.5 billion more if it gave local trusts control of their own IT, on top of the existing estimated costs of £12.7 billion.

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The government has claimed it would cost the NHS £4.5 billion more for local trusts to buy the IT and services now being provided by the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT in the NHS (NPfIT).

As speculation mounts over the future of the NPfIT after a second supplier, Fujitsu, walked away from the programme, a defiant health minister Ben Bradshaw told MPs that a localised programme would be significantly more expensive.

“Each NHS trust undertaking procurements for IT solutions would cost £4.5 billion more,” he said, citing an unsourced “independent review”. The government has not made its own estimate.

However, it is not clear that the government can get the NPfIT delivered at costs agreed in its initial contracts. Talks between the NHS and Fujitsu broke down after the two parties failed to agree on the costs of a national programme providing more locally-specific services. Connecting for Health declined to comment at the time.

CSC contract negotiations are still continuing. Talks with BT led to an additional £55 million being added to that supplier’s near-billion pound contract in order to reflect added services.

After Fujitsu and the NHS announced the termination of their £896 million agreement, sources close to the talks told Computerworld UK that the NHS was considering allowing the local trusts in Fujitsu’s southern region to choose their own suppliers, working from the list of additional suppliers.

But it was also weighing up appointing BT or CSC, one of the remaining lead contractors, to the project. Again, the NHS declined to comment.

Other industry sources have since urged the government to reconsider the plan for a centralised database, allowing local trusts to choose their own systems.

Richard Bacon MP, a member of public spending watchdog the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said at the time: "There are hospitals praying they’re at the back of the queue and might get the chance for another system." But he said he doubted the government would "slam on the brakes" for a rethink.

Martyn Hart, chairman at the National Outsourcing Association, said: "It seems as if the NHS and Department for Health picked a one-size-fits-all system and rammed it down the throats of local trusts. The stakeholders maybe didn’t want to go this way, so why did the government drive it through?”

At the time, the government reiterated that it would "continue to protect the interests of the taxpayer".

Stephen O'Brien, Conservative shadow minister for health, today reiterated to Computerworld UK that the centralised NHS IT system was "crashing down".

Last week, the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said it was considering walking away from the national programme and choosing its own IT systems.

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