Taxpayers are still footing the bill for the deeply flawed National Programme for IT (NPfIT) that was launched by the Labour government in 2002 to try and standardise all IT and data access across the NHS.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has issued another damning report on the project, claiming that costs continue to spiral, despite the project being officially dismantled, while benefits from the systems that have been retained for more limited use are “extremely disappointing”.
The report noted that the NHS will still pay £2.2bn to IT provider Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) for the programme, despite the company's own failures that have seen it repay money to the NHS.
“Despite CSC's poor performance, the Department [of Health]'s negotiating position is weak because it could not meet its own contractual obligation to make available 160 trusts in the North and Midlands to take the new system,” reads the report.
“Despite two years of negotiations the full resetting of the contract is yet to be agreed with CSC, but the Department estimates that the contract is still likely to cost about £2.2bn, assuming just 22 trusts take the system."
Not only that, but even cancelling the contracts is costing millions. “The Department's legal costs in relation to the termination of Fujitsu's contract have totalled £31.5m over the last four years,” the report noted.
Richard Bacon MP and member of the PAC said the ongoing costs generated by the project made it “one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector”.
“The taxpayer is continuing to pay the price for the ill-fated NPfIT in the NHS,” he added. “Although officially ‘dismantled’, the National Programme continues in the form of separate component programmes, which are still racking up big costs.”
The committee also said it was not convinced the NHS can deliver on its latest vision of going “paperless" based on the failures of the NPfIT.
“After the sorry history of the National Programme, we are sceptical that the Department can deliver its vision of a paperless NHS by 2018,” it said.
“Making the NHS paperless will involve further significant investment in IT and business transformation. However, the department has not even set aside a specific budget for this purpose."
V3 contacted the Department of Health for its response to the report but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Earlier this year the government announced it was giving the Department of Health another £260m to try and improve its use of technology. No doubt how this is spent will be watched with interest by those on the PAC.
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