‘System failure’ - £11 billion NHS IT system finally abandoned, but not before slamming a high bill on taxpayers

Once again central government has come under fire because of one of its costly and failing IT programmes. Unsurprisingly, a report published today by the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) heavily criticised the expensive 11.4 billion ‘National Programme for IT in the NHS’ (NPfIT). They’ve said that £2.7 billion of taxpayers’ cash has been wasted by the programme, as the Department of Health has very little to show for that huge amount of cash.

The report highlighted a number of failings in both the management and implementation of the system, including the inability of the Government to ensure it was getting the best contractual deals from suppliers such as BT. As the Committee notes, “BT is paid £9 million to implement systems at each NHS site, even though the same systems have been purchased for under £2 million by NHS organisations outside the Programme”, clearly underlining the Department’s poor management and inability to provide taxpayers with value for money.

Launched in 2002 by the Department of Health, the central aim of the programme was to develop an all-encompassing e-records system to make accurate patient records available to NHS staff at all times. But the project has courted controversy at every stage from its inception. Data management issues, patient confidentiality problems, numerous missed deadlines; NPfIT has it all, completely undermining its goal of increased efficiency. It has been dubbed the super-computer but there’s nothing super about it: the project takes every single failing of past IT projects – of which there have been many – and rolls them into one giant failure.

The inclination of the NHS to centralise everything has cost taxpayers dear. Richard Bacon MP, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, called it “one of the worst scandals in terms of wasting public money of my ten years on the Committee”. A scandal is right. We called for this project to be scrapped almost two years ago in our report with the Institute of Directors How to Save 50 Billion. Taxpayers’ money has already been poured down this black hole and the government have to put a stop to it, now. It seems the alternative is that local health trusts and hospitals will be allowed to develop or buy individual computer systems to suit their needs instead, but the haemorrhaging of cash must end.

And we need to remember NPfIT every single time the government - or any government in the future - comes up with a major IT project on the promise that it will magically make everything better, in exchange for a few billion from taxpayers.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.  More info. Okay