12 August 2009 | Jake Kanter
The UK Conservative party plans to scrap large parts of the government's £12 billion scheme to digitise patient health records.
Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said this week that a Tory government would halt and renegotiate contracts with IT suppliers on the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) introducing less centrally led systems, as well as encouraging the use of open source technology.
The proposals were made in response to an independent review of the NPfIT commissioned by O'Brien. The report recommends that a future government create central standards for IT systems and hand NHS trusts the power to purchase technology independently.
"Trusts can then select a system in the knowledge that it is compatible with the NHS as a whole and yet choose a solution that meets local needs," the report said.
The Tories believe the changes will yield "huge cost savings" and ensure NHS IT better meets the needs of patients.
O'Brien said: "Labour's handling of NHS IT has been shambolic. Their top-down, bureaucratic plans have been hugely disruptive to the NHS and have been plagued with delays and cost overruns. Conservatives will not let patients pay the price for the government's inaction."
The NPfIT has been widely criticised and earlier this year the Public Accounts Committee blasted its lateness and "unreliable" cost estimates (news, 5 February).
In April the Department of Health said the scheme could be scrapped if its major suppliers, including BT and CSC, didn't speed up delivery by November (news, 30 April).
Elsewhere, speaking at an event run by think-tank Demos yesterday, shadow chancellor George Osborne said a Conservative government would achieve "billions of pounds" of savings by applying "basic financial discipline" to procurement.