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.”