The chief executive of NHS London has said that the aims of the health service’s IT refresh programme can no longer be acheived, after telecommunications and IT services provider BT struck a deal with the Department of Health that dramatically reduces the scope of the project in the capital.
The revised £1 billion contract, part of the ill-fated National Programme for IT, means that the systems BT is building will be deployed in fewer than half as many NHS trusts as previously agreed, and that the scope of the systems themselves will also be reduced.
"It will no longer be possible to provide the comprehensive solution that was anticipated in 2003," said NHS London chief Ruth Carnall in a letter to NHS trust executives that was leaked to newspapers.
It is estimated that about £100 million in taxpayers’ money will be saved as a result of the new deal, but opposition to the decision say this is nowhere near enough. "It is inconceivable that this can represent value for money for the taxpayer," commented Richard Bacon, a Tory MP and member of the Public Accounts Committee. "The government are buying themselves out of jail, winning a little bit of time, and using an enormous amount of taxpayers’ money to do it."
In December 2009, Chancellor Alistair Darling identified the NPfIT scheme – which at the time was said to be four and a half times over budget – as a target for government savings. The ten-year scheme began in 2003 with a budget of approximately £12.7 billion. The initial intention of the NPfIT was to connect 30,000 general practitioners and 300 hospitals in England via a secure, centrally-mandated system of electronic patient records and data.