NHS hospital spent £17m on consultants for £10m IT system

Royal Berkshire Hospital spent £16.6 million on IT consultants to help deploy an IT system that is now worth just £10 million, it has emerged. 

The hospital has so far spent £28 million on an electronic patient records system called Millenium from US software vendor Cerner. 

However, the deployment has been beset by delays and performance issues. Earlier this year, auditors found that the system is now worth just £10 million. 

Last week, a Freedom of Information request by the Reading Chronicle revealed that the hospital has so far spent £16.6 million on IT consultants – more than the value of the system itself. 

Yesterday, the BBC reported that the money went to "more than 200" consultants since the project started in 2009. A team of 40 IT specialists works on the project full time, the BBC said. 

Tony Collins, of public sector IT pressure group Campaign4Change, wrote yesterday that "the typical cost of a Trust-wide electronic patient record system, including support for five years, is about £6m-£8m, which suggests that the Royal Berkshire has spent £22m more than necessary".

Collins noted that the Royal Berkshire Hospital did not procure the Cerner system through the hugely unpopular National Programme for IT, even though it is available through the programme.

"As senior officials at the Department of Health have been so careless with public funds over NHS IT – and have spent millions on the same sets of consultants – they are in no position to admonish Royal Berkshire," he wrote. "So who can criticise Royal Berkshire and should its chief executive be held accountable?"

The hospital's difficulties suggest that there is something about electronic patient records systems, and not just the NPfIT, that make them prone to failure. However, software vendor Cerner says that there many examples of NHS Trusts successfully using its software without huge budget overruns. 

Despite implications by the Department of Health that it had killed the NPfIT scheme, it continues to rack up costs, a House of Commons committee found last month. 

The NHS has set aside a further £1.1 billion to pay IT services provider CSC has its Lorenzo care records systems, the Public Accounts Committee discovered.

Committee chair Patricia Hodge said the Department of Health's 2011 announcement that it had dismantled NPfIT was a "PR exercise".  

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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