A member of the Public Accounts Committee is looking at whether the Department of Health provided it with misleading information about the release of a final benefits statement on NPfIT.

EHI revealed this week that the DH website says it released its final report on the benefits of NPfIT in June, six days before it told the PAC that it would not be available until September.

The statement is the DH’s response to a request by the committee for it to release the promised statement that was made in August 2011.

At a meeting on 12 June this year, PAC chair Margaret Hodge and member Richard Bacon questioned Tim Donohoe, the DH’s senior responsible owner for the local service provider programmes, about when the benefits statement would be made public.

“We are working through to validate because we do not want to put in the public domain information that is incorrect. I think that we are probably three months away from being able to publish,” he answered.

Bacon told EHI this week that it is "very odd" that it looks as if the DH had already published the report when Donohoe said this.

He said he would talk to Hodge about how to proceed, adding that putting forward incorrect information to the committee, or failing to mention that information is available, is a very serious issue.

“It’s the kind of behaviour that one has come to expect from what’s left of the national programme. To say they were a model of clarity and honesty would be stretching the point,” Bacon said.

“Throughout the programme they were always ready to say things were doing better than they were. But it does seem to be taking it to another level to quietly put out this report and then talk about it as if it hasn’t been published.”

The report says the total expected cost of the programme is £9.8 billion. The DH predicted that £10.7 billion in benefits could be realised in total.

However, only £3.7 billion of actual benefits had been identified by March 2012. The government announced in September 2010 that it would dismantle the programme, and in September 2011 that it would accelerate this process.

“If you torture numbers for long enough you can make them say anything and that seems to be what’s happened here,” Bacon said. “That doesn’t mean it’s an accurate representation of what’s been going on.

“The purpose of the programme was to create electronic patient records; that was the heart of it and it’s not been delivered at all.”

Bacon said that in order to learn from its mistakes, the NHS needs to be honest about what went wrong with NPfIT.

“If you don’t fully understand what’s gone wrong then you have every chance of making the same mistakes and trying to create some sort of illusion that ‘it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was’, doesn’t help anybody.”

Bacon has dedicated a chapter in his book released in June, Conundrum, to the truth behind the national programme.

“I’m a great believer that done right, IT can make more of a difference to health outcomes and life expectancy than anything else, but it has to be done right,” he said.

EHI has received detailed reports on the costs and benefits of NPfIT from the National Audit Office. We will be running a series analysing the released information called ‘The NAO Files’ over coming weeks.