16 June 2006 | Rebecca Ellinor
Key parts of the programme to upgrade IT for the NHS are falling behind schedule, the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.
While the NAO commended much of the work already carried out for the Department of Health's (DH) £6.8 billion National Programme for IT, the report, available at www.nao.gov.uk
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%>, highlighted delays to the online booking system and electronic care records and noted a lack of engagement with staff.
The report said it was "too early to say" whether the programme would provide overall value for money. Among its recommendations was for the DH to publish an annual statement quantifying the benefits delivered by the programme.
Health minister Lord Warner pre-empted the release of the report by announcing plans to speed-up implementation of the electronic patient record. He said some pilots would begin in 2007.
The NAO praised the speed with which contracts had been placed and the securing of large reductions in prices from bidders. It also noted that contract terms included important safeguards to secure value for money for the taxpayer because the onus rests with suppliers.