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.