Christine Connelly spells out financial risks to the public accounts committee…
Scrapping a delayed NHS electronic records project could cost more than seeing it through to completion, a parliamentary committee has heard.
The project to install electronic patient records systems at health trusts in the north and east of England and the Midlands is years behind schedule.
The programme has been described as not being "value for money" in a report from public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) and critics have called for the project to be abandoned.
But on Tuesday, Department of Health (DoH) CIO Christine Connelly told the parliamentary public accounts committee that cancelling the contract with supplier CSC could potentially leave the DoH "exposed to a higher cost than the cost to complete the contract as it stands today".
She said if the contract were terminated, the resulting contractual costs could run up to "several hundred million pounds", with the possibility that the supplier could seek damages.
Still further costs could be incurred during the process of moving health trusts over to new care records systems, she said.
But Connelly went on to say that the DoH is still considering all options for the contract with CSC, which the DoH has previously stated includes termination.
Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, told the committee that the DoH is not currently minded to cancel its contract with CSC: "That's not what we're planning to do at the moment."
He said the DoH could still get something "really good" out of its contract with CSC.
Care records systems are being installed across the whole of England, although progress has been slowest in the north, east and Midlands, the NAO report found.
CSC has repeatedly missed targets, known as milestones, for the rollout of the care records systems. By March this year, CSC had missed 67 milestones set under its Local Service Provider (LSP) contract, and recently suffered a further setback when one of four trusts chosen to be early adopters of the care records system pulled out of the project.
The NAO report found that £2.7bn has been spent installing care records systems across the whole of England, and that there is a further £4.3bn still to be spent.
The care records system is being installed in the north, east and Midlands by CSC under the terms of its LSP contract, which is worth just over £3bn, but the DoH has said it expects negotiations will reduce the contract's value by about £500m.