30 April 2009 | Jake Kanter
The much-maligned NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) could be scrapped if it does not make "significant progress" by November.
Christine Connelly, director general of informatics at the Department of Health (DH) said the programme to digitise patient records would be overhauled if its major suppliers, including BT and CSC, didn't speed up delivery.
"If we don't see significant progress by the end of November, we will move to a new plan for delivering informatics to healthcare," she said. The DH would not disclose details of a contingency plan, but Connelly set out a number of proposals aimed at accelerating the project, which aimed to provide a single electronic care record system for 50 million patients in England by 2010.
She said the department would allow NHS trusts in the south of England to purchase technology from an approved framework of suppliers, following the termination of a 10-year, £869 million contract with Fujitsu last year.
She also announced a "toolkit" enabling all trusts to develop IT applications that can be used along side the NPfIT system.
The initiatives were designed to increase competition in the market, accelerating the programme's delivery.
Earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee blasted the NPfIT's "unreliable" cost estimates and argued it would not be complete until 2014-15.
A spokesman for the DH admitted the scheme had been delayed, but said costs were under control. "The contracts are designed so that we don't have to pay suppliers until the systems have been fully implemented," he said. "We have a £12.7 billion budget, but we have only spent £3.5 billion so far."