NHS trusts to get 'power and choice' over IT spend

4 February 2009

4 February 2009 | Jake Kanter

The chief executive of the health service wants to give NHS trusts more autonomy over their IT spending decisions.

David Nicholson told a committee of MPs this week he wanted to give trusts more "power and choice" over IT purchases, but continue to implement the delayed National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

An investigation by The Times claimed suppliers working on the NPfIT project may walk away if NHS bodies buy additional IT from vendors outside the contract. But Nicholson argued some trusts urgently need to purchase interim software while they wait for the NPfIT to be delivered.

"The idea that you could, by attrition, drive a national programme into an NHS that was unwilling to accept it simply is not deliverable," he conceded. "We have been looking at ways in which we can decentralise and give more power to the NHS, so we get much more of a pull to the [NPfIT] system, rather than just push."

The report in The Times, which examined eight of the public sector's largest IT contracts, said cost overruns had reached £18.6 billion, with new computer systems "years" behind schedule. Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told the newspaper he would ask the National Audit Office to investigate the cases highlighted and government IT spending in general.

A PAC report last week heavily criticised the NPfIT over its lateness and "unreliable" cost estimates.

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