23 May 2008 | Paul Snell
Spending on core contracts for the NHS national programme for IT (NPfIT) is 44 per cent less than projected at this stage - but only because of the delay in implementing systems.
According to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), NHS Connecting for Health (CfH), which is in charge of the project, had spent just over £1.9 billion on core contracts by the end of March, instead of the £3.4 billion expected. However, this is because of late delivery by suppliers, and consequently the NHS not having to pay service charges that would have been due.
A study into the NPfIT carried out by Sir Derek Wanless last year said the programme lacked necessary audits, would create supplier monopolies and would not achieve value for money (Web news, 19 September 2008).
Total spend on core contracts is now expected to be more than £6.8 billion, £678 million more than previously predicted, because of the purchase of increased functionality within IT.
The NAO's progress review also found some suppliers had not been paid for systems more than 12 months after delivery. CfH will not pay until systems have been proved to be delivered and working for 45 days. But the national average number of days between deployment and payment authorisation was 147.
Fujitsu, which supplies systems in the south of England, told the NAO that trusts were holding back on payment, even if systems were working, until changes not included in the original contract had been made.
The NAO also said £208 million of savings had been reported from the project so far, most of which have come from decommissioning the old IT infrastructure of the NHS. But there is no baseline against which to measure savings that have been achieved.