Parts of the multi-billion pound National Programme for IT in the NHS could be cancelled in this week’s Pre-Budget Report, the Chancellor has warned.
Speaking on Sunday, Alastair Darling said the delayed £12.7 billion programme was “quite expensive” and parts could be postponed to save cash. The Chancellor did not indicate which parts of the programme he had in mind for cuts.
NPfIT aims to deliver detailed local electronic medical records and summary national care records for 50m patients in England. Key local parts of the ambitious project are running four years late.
Darling told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: “It is necessary for me, on Wednesday, to indicate areas where we are going to cut spending and where we are not going to spend as much as we were.
“For example, the NHS has quite an expensive IT system that, frankly, is not essential for the front line. That’s something we do not need to go ahead with just now.”
An estimated £400m of public money has been spent on the project, with four regional contractors — BT, Accenture, Fujitsu and CSC — initially awarded contracts in 2002 to provide systems in different regions of England.
Accenture and Fujitsu have already left the programme, with the latter axed in April 2008.
The termination of Fujitsu’s local service provider deal for the NHS in the South of England resulted in ongoing legal claims over termination penalties – with Fujitsu alleged to be seeking up to £800m. Cancellation of the two remaining LSP deals may not offer immediate savings.
The Conservatives have committed to cancel the national infrastructure part of the project, assumed to mean the NHS Spine and summary care records database.
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said on Sunday: “After seven years Labour have finally acknowledged what we’ve said for years, that the procurement for NHS IT was costing billions and not delivering. The opportunity cost to the NHS also measures billions of pounds.