The government has used the end of the Cabinet Office’s review of the National Programme for IT in the NHS to announce that it is going to “axe” the project.
The timing of the move appears to be linked to the party conference season. The Labour Party is meeting next week, and this morning a number of Conservative-supporting papers put significant emphasis on the programme's Labour roots.
The Daily Mail opens its coverage by saying that “ministers are to axe Labour’s disastrous £12 billion NHS computer scheme” which it goes on to describe as a “monument to Whitehall folly during Labour’s 13 years in power.”
The paper does not say what will happen to NHS Connecting for Health, the agency that runs the programme, or to CSC’s local service provider contract for the North, Midlands and East of England, on which considerable sums of money are still to be spent.
However, eHealth Insider understands that in line with previous announcements, the future of CfH will be clarified in a report on the future of health informatics that is due later this autumn.
EHI also understands that the DH continues to lead on negotiations with CSC, although there will be further involvement from the Cabinet Office.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude will chair an 'oversight committee' to get best value from the contracts, with DH and Cabinet Office representation.
The DH and the US company have been locked in negotiations about a new deal since CSC missed another key deadline to install iSoft’s Lorenzo software at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust.
The deal has been interrupted by a highly critical National Audit Office report on the detailed care records elements of the national programme.
This also criticised the deals re-signed with BT for London and parts of the South, which delivered less functionality to fewer trusts for only a small amount less money.
The CSC negotiations were also interrupted by a lively meeting of the Commons’ public accounts committee on the report, and a review of the whole national programme by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority.
The Mail and other papers report that, in line with changes already announced last year by health minister Simon Burns, the programme will be replaced with regional initiatives and trusts being given more control over their own IT.
In a formal press release, issued onto its website at 9.30am this morning, the DH indicates that the Major Projects Authority came to many of the same conclusions as its own review, which led to Burns' statement last summer.
It says: "The MPA found that there have been substantial achievements which are now firmly established, such as the Spine, N3 Network, NHSmail, Choose and Book, Secondary Uses Service and Picture Archving and Communications Service.
"Their delivery accounts for around two thirds of the £6.4 billion spent so far, and they will continue to provide vital support to the NHS. However, the review reported that the national programme has not and cannot deliver to its original intent."
The Cabinet Office’s report also apparently recommends that the government should “dismember the programme and reconstitute it under new management and organisational arrangements.”
It further appears to echo concerns made when the programme placed its multi-million pound local service provider contracts that there was never a properly documented business case for the programme.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Labour’s IT programme let down the NHS and wasted taxpayers’ money by imposing a top-down IT system on the local NHS, which didn’t fit their needs.
"We will be moving to an innovative new system driven by local decision-making. This is the only way to make sure we get value for money from IT systems that better meet the needs of a modernised NHS."
This story was last updated at 10am on Thursday, 22 September, and therefore includes some information not included in earlier versions. The Department of Health press release is on its website.
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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