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Labour urged to suspend NHS IT programme

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A storm is brewing over government efforts to secure a quick fix for the controversial and much-delayed £12.7bn NHS IT revamp before the general election.

The BBC has been told that Labour hopes to cut £600m from the cost of the NHS IT programme before it is implemented, with chancellor Alistair Darling suggesting last year that parts of the project could be shelved in light of the recession.

But the Tories, who hope to reform the scheme, say the move would “tie the hands” of the next government and force it to follow current policy.

“We are urging the government not to go down that route because we wouldn’t want any further contractual arrangements to be committed,” shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien told BBC Radio 4.

Responding, health secretary Mike O’Brien said the criticisms were “nonsense”, adding the government would continue to seek the best deal regardless of the coming election.

The restructuring programme was originally scheduled for completion in 2006. Ministers now estimate it will not be ready until 2015.

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