UK Politics

NHS IT system one of 'worst fiascos ever', say MPs

Patient records in a GP surgery
Image caption Ministers want to make the NHS paperless

Taxpayers face a rising, multi-billion pound bill for a failed government IT project, MPs have said.

A report by the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) concluded an attempt to upgrade NHS computer systems in England ended up becoming one of the "worst and most expensive contracting fiascos" in public sector history.

The final bill for abandoning the plan is still uncertain, the committee said.

Ministers initially put the costs of the NHS scheme's failure at £6.4bn.

Officials later revised the total to £9.8bn, but the PAC said this latest estimate failed to include a price for terminating a contract with Fujitsu to provide care records systems and other future costs.

'Ill-fated'

The project was launched in 2002, with the aim of revolutionising the way technology is used in the health service by paving the way for electronic records, digital scanning and integrated IT systems across hospitals and community care.

Hit by technical problems and contractual wrangling, it was effectively disbanded by the government two years ago.

MPs on the PAC said some outstanding costs remain and committee member Richard Bacon said: "The taxpayer is continuing to pay the price for the ill-fated national programme for IT in the NHS.

"Although officially dismantled (it) continues in the form of separate component programmes which are still racking up big costs."

He highlighted a government decision to renegotiate £3.1bn worth of contracts with outsourcing company CSC, charged with setting up a care records system known as Lorenzo in the North, Midlands and east of England.

"Despite the contractor's weak performance, the Department of Health is itself in a weak position in its attempts to renegotiate the contracts," Mr Bacon said.

"The department's latest estimate of £9.8bn leaves out the future costs of Lorenzo or the potential large future costs arising from the department's termination of Fujitsu's contract for care records systems in the south of England."

The report added that delays and problems with changes to benefit payments - another huge government IT project - showed ministers had not "learned and applied lessons" from the fallout.

"This saga is one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector," Mr Bacon added.

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