NHS IT report was watered down

Criticisms of the Government's management of the multi-billion pound modernisation of the NHS were removed before a key report was published

A key report into the NHS's massive IT upgrade programme was watered down by the Government before publication, it has emerged.

The BBC's World at One radio programme revealed on Friday that it had obtained an early version of the report, which was conducted by the National Audit Office. This version contained several criticisms of the project. But in the final version, some criticisms had been removed and replaced with less controversial statements.

One UK IT expert who was involved with the NAO report confirmed to ZDNet UK that changes were made to the draft report after it was circulated to various interested parties, including the UK Government, at the start of this year. He expressed unhappiness that important recommendations weren't included in the final version.

A warning that there are "insufficient trainers to train NHS staff", became a warning that a lack of knowledge could be a major barrier to implementation. A claim that the Government has been "slow in securing the engagement and commitment of the NHS to the programme" was removed, and replaced with a recommendation that more work was needed on engagement.

Opposition politicians have expressed concern that the changes were made, but the NAO has insisted that the report's overall conclusions were unchanged.

The final report was published in June 2006. It had been expected to criticise the project, but was actually seen as broadly supportive.

Speaking after the report's publication in June, government ministers bullishly declared that they had 'learned from previous failures'.

Later that month, MPs criticised the NAO for the "gushing" and "universally positive tone" of its report, and claimed it had been intimidated by the Department of Health.

You can see the draft report on the BBC Web site. The final report can be downloaded from the NAO.

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