MP warns Department of Health to hold-off awarding IT contracts

21 January 2011
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21 January 2011 | Lindsay Clark

The Departmentof Health (DH) should wait for the results of independent reports before concluding contract renegotiations with two high-profile IT suppliers.

Conservative MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC), has written to Christine Connelly, the department’s chief information officer for health, advising contract renegotiations with suppliers to the troubled National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS should not be finished until the National Audit Office (NAO) has completed its third report on the programme and the PAC has had a chance to consider the findings.

The NPfIT was launched in 2003 was expected to spend around £12 billion on systems including integrated electronic health records for around 50 million people in England. The programme has fallen years behind schedule, even though delivery organisation NHS Connecting for Health had insisted suppliers would not get paid until health trusts accepted systems. The government cancelled the scheme last September, although some of the projects will continue.

In his letter to Connelly, Bacon urged the DH not to award renegotiated deals with two major suppliers to the programme, CSC and BT, until value for money had been considered by the NAO.

“I would suggest that this inquiry will review a great deal of evidence that is relevant to the question of whether proposed contract renegotiations with BT and CSC really do represent good value to the NHS and taxpayers,” the letter said.

“I would therefore ask for your undertaking that no further steps will be taken to conclude further agreements with either company until the NAO has reported and the Public Accounts Committee has had time to consider its findings. It would seem to me that to enter into new irrevocable commitments in advance of this report would be irresponsible and potentially a breach of the accounting officer’s responsibilities.”

A spokesman for the DH said it was considering its response to the letter.

The NAO will publish its value for money report on the NPfIT in March.

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