Tory minister criticises NHS IT plans

4 March 2010

4 March 2010 | Jake Kanter

The UK government must “come clean” about attempts to lock in “wasteful” NHS IT contracts, according to the Conservative party.

Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien has criticised the government for renegotiating contracts with suppliers for the £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) – a scheme to digitise patient health records – before the general election. 

Re-setting the deals, he said, would “tie the hands” of a future government, particularly as the Tories and Liberal Democrats want to scrap large parts of the programme.

"It is devastating for taxpayers to watch the government sign away billions more pounds on a failing IT programme and tie the hands of the next government," O'Brien said.

Responding to the accusations on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, health minister Mike O’Brien said the government was in discussions with NPfIT vendors to save £600 million over the lifetime of the scheme, which is expected to be complete by 2016. 

He added that the government wanted to secure a “memorandum of understanding” with suppliers before the end of March. 

"I am not going to get into the situation where, because we are approaching an election, the whole of government stops and we cannot sign contracts with key suppliers of NHS equipment. That would be complete nonsense,” the health minister said.

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