Detailed criticisms of the management of the NHS IT modernisation programme, being overseen by Connecting for Health, were cut from the National Audit Office report published in June.
An early draft of the report obtained by the BBC reveals that strongly worded concerns and critical analysis of the programme were either toned down or removed entirely down before publication of report in June.
The draft contains passages that had been edited out entirely by the time the report was published in June, following revisions from the Department of Health. Many industry experts were surprised by how upbeat June’s report was, given the doubling of the cost of the NPfIT programme and protracted delays in delivering detailed local clinical systems and a national summary record database.
One striking line that didn’t survive drafting is in the summary section. It stated the programme “was slow to demonstrate clear and effective leadership to engage NHS organisations".
Another striking removal is the sentences on staff concerns that the “programme is moving slower than expected; that transparency is lacking as to when systems will be delivered and what they will do, and the confidentiality of patient information may be at risk. Relations with GPs have also been damaged by concerns that they will be forced to give up their existing IT systems.”
Similarly, a line on "insufficient trainers to train NHS staff" was taken out. Instead, the report said staff considered the biggest barrier to implementation was a lack of knowledge and training. A section saying that the "NHS currently lacks the sufficient skills" to deliver the programme was also deleted.
It is routine for government departments to review and clarify points of fact in NAO reports, but the NPfIT report – the first conducted into a major government IT project before completion – was said to be hotly contested by NHS Connecting for Health. Many of the lines removed from the final report do not appear .
Richard Bacon, a Tory MP and member of the Public Accounts Committee, told the BBC: "I, like many, was quite surprised the NAO report because it did not reflect many of the concerns."