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Electronic patient record project has 'wasted millions'


A plan to integrate NHS patient care records is not going to work and millions of pounds may have been wasted, according to a damning report from MPs.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee said parts of the National Programme for IT - designed to create electronic patient records for use across the NHS in England - have proved unworkable.

Launched in 2002 with an estimated cost of more than £11 billion, the Department of Health has spent £6.4 billion on the programme so far, including £2.7 billion on patient records.

MPs said the intention of creating electronic records was a “worthwhile aim” but was one “that has proved beyond the capacity of the department to deliver”.

They added: “Implementation of alternative up-to-date IT systems has fallen significantly behind schedule and costs have escalated.

“The department could have avoided some of the pitfalls and waste if they had consulted at the start of the process with health professionals.

“The department has failed to demonstrate the benefits achieved for the £2.7 billion spent to date on care records systems.”

The report said officials have accepted they are unable to deliver the planned system and are “now relying on individual NHS trusts to develop systems compatible with those in the programme”.

This means different parts of the country will have different systems.

The report also criticises the contracts between the department and suppliers - so far £1.8 billion has been paid out to them.

“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 of Health 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”.

In the report, MPs criticised the Department of Health’s “weak programme management”.

They said: “We are concerned that, given his significant other responsibilities, 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.”

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “We are making sure that systems are not imposed on the NHS from the centre which organisations do not want.

“And we will shortly announce our plans for even stronger action to deliver value for money for taxpayers and the NHS.”


Readers' comments (16)

  • Andrew Kingsley

    'worthwhile aim' - yes, and I would go further to say it is essential that the NHS makes this leap - it frustrates me immensely however that yet again there is failure in NHS computerland - time to hold a few senior people to account and publically too, both on the NHS and IT company sides for this debacle - so I would be in support if MPs held a select committee process to find out what sent wrong.

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  • Is this a surprise. I am glad I opted out, at least to safeguard my data from such failed schemes and abuse by the NHS, government and other organisations who they may have chosen to share it with!

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  • tinkerbell

    We already had computerised notes but we went 'live' on the national data base on Monday, or should i say 'dead as a dodo'. Think the poor IT guy who's in to help us through the process for the rest of this week may have resigned by now. Back to find out more today. None of the smart cards worked, only some computers could log on, 2 out of maybe 10. Only 3 staff could log on out of about 40. It was IT hell. In the end all the notes had to be written by hand. It would have been great if it had worked. I love computers but on this occasion the computers said 'NO'.

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  • "NHS should consider abandoning £7bn IT project
    The Department of Health should consider abandoning a disastrous £7billion project to computerise all patients’ medical records, according to a powerful group of MPs.
    By Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent6:15AM BST 03 Aug 2011134
    The Public Accounts Committee says that although £2.7bn of taxpayers’ money has already gone on the scheme, it is unclear what the benefits have been and so ministers should think about whether the rest of the cash could be better spent elsewhere."

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  • In 2001, it was clear that different regions were getting different systems that weren't going to be compatible with each other. It was a no brainer from the start

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  • The health secretary has been going on about how the health service needs to become more efficient. What better way to improve efficiency in the NHS than integrating electronic patient records.

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  • camsw4 as others have said, it is a worthwhile aim, however this was doomed to fail from the start because it was run the same way everything in the NHS is run, ineptly, incompetently, fragmented into countless beauracracys and contracts and run by the cheapest bidder. Did anyone really expect this to work?

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  • Anonymous | 3-Aug-2011 10:14 pm

    i agree with you, mayby just maybe if we all had the same systems then it would have been better?

    The one thing i like about it is you can write everybody (hand)writing.

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  • This was poorly planned from the outset. The clinical staff should have been asked what their needs were before the start of the project. Instead it was planned by people who have no idea of our needs, then our requests were ad hoc add-ons part-way through the project. Of course it was going to be a huge waste of time and money.
    Just think of how the money could have been better spent!!!

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  • now that money is gone and they never learn. it won't be long before a new project is launched without consulting those concerned, and so it goes on. again we will be told there is no money, services will be cut and taxes will rise. what's new?

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