Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NHS pulls the plug on its £11bn IT system

After nine years and with billions already spent, doomed computer system is abandoned

A plan to create the world's largest single civilian computer system linking all parts of the National Health Service is to be abandoned by the Government after running up billions of pounds in bills. Ministers are expected to announce next month that they are scrapping a central part of the much-delayed and hugely controversial 10-year National Programme for IT.

Instead, local health trusts and hospitals will be allowed to develop or buy individual computer systems to suit their needs – with a much smaller central server capable of "interrogating" them to provide centralised information on patient care. News of the Government's plans comes as a damning report from a cross-party committee of MPs concludes that the £11.4bn programme had proved "beyond the capacity of the Department of Health to deliver".

The Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said that, while the intention of creating a centralised database of electronic patient records was a "worthwhile aim", a huge amount of money had been wasted.

  "The department has been unable to demonstrate what benefits have been delivered from the £2.7bn spent on the project so far," Margaret Hodge, chair of the PAC, said. "It should now urgently review whether it is worth continuing with the remaining elements of the care-records system. The £4.3bn which the department expects to spend might be better used to buy systems that are proven to work, that are good value for money and which deliver demonstrable benefits to the NHS." A further £4.4bn was expected to be spent on other areas of the vast IT project.

The nine-year-old NHS computer project – the biggest civilian IT scheme ever attempted – has been in disarray since it missed its first deadlines in 2007. The project has been beset by changing specifications, technical challenges and clashes with suppliers, which has left it years behind schedule and way over cost.

Accenture, the largest contractor involved, walked out on contracts worth £2bn in 2006, writing off hundreds of millions of pounds in the process. Months earlier, the US supplier IDX, contracted to provide software in and around London, had also withdrawn from the project, making a $450m (£275m) provision against future losses from the two contracts.  The PAC said part of the problem had been weak leadership in the department. "The department could have avoided some of the pitfalls and waste if they had consulted at the start of the process with health professionals," it said.

"We are concerned that, given his significant other responsibilities, [NHS chief executive] David Nicholson has not fully discharged his responsibilities as the senior responsible owner for this project. This has resulted in poor accountability for project performance."

The report also criticises the contracts between the department and suppliers – so far, £1.8bn has been paid.

"One supplier, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), has yet to deliver the bulk of the systems it is contracted to supply and has instead implemented a large number of interim systems as a stopgap," it said.

The department told MPs it may be more expensive to terminate the contract than see it through, while another provider, BT, "has also proved unable to deliver against its original contract".


The Independent understands that next month the Government will set out a new strategy for IT in the NHS which will abandon any attempt to link up the NHS in a central system while trying to integrate those parts that have already been delivered.

read more at: http://www.independent.co.uk//health-news/nhs-pulls-the-plug-on-its-11bn-it-system