23 May 2008
The care records systems at the heart of the NHS's huge National Programme for IT will not be fully deployed until 2014/15 – four years later than planned, the National Audit Office has warned.
In a report examining progress on the programme since 2006, the NAO says timescales for the electronic care records service 'turned out to be unachievable, raised unrealistic expectations and put confidence in the programme at risk'.
But the original vision for the national computer project 'remains intact and still appears feasible', says the report, published on May 16. It estimates the cost of the scheme at £12.7bn at 2004/05 prices, slightly up on previous estimates of £12.4bn.
The value of the main contracts to supply the computer systems had risen by 11%, 'due mainly to the purchase of increased functionality', the report says, adding that it 'remains difficult' to estimate the cost of local implementation reliably.
Public Accounts Committee chair Edward Leigh said: 'The National Programme for IT was always going to be challenging. But, over time, the Department of Health has had its eyes opened to its enormous scale. And by building unrealistic expectations for delivery, confidence in the whole programme has been damaged.'
He warned that the new 2014/15 target date for the care records system 'had better be realistic'. The DoH 'can't afford further knocks to the programme's reputation or our confidence in it', he added.