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UK's national health IT programme 'unworkable'

Britain's next-generation electronic health records system -- still yet to be fully implemented 9 years on -- should be scrapped, says MP's.
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Written by Zack Whittaker on

The UK's National Health Service's (NHS) IT programme should be scrapped, a parliamentary committee has stated, citing reasons that the £7bn ($11.5bn) project is "unworkable".

The IT project, designed to digitise patient records to be made available to healthcare professionals anywhere in the UK, has been hampered by delays and budget issues.

Under the plans, a centralised server would be able to deliver patient records, digital imaging from X-rays to MRIs, and other cost saving benefits to any member of the NHS, regardless of where they are in the country.

The committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge MP, criticised the project's cost and lack of deliverance. Hodge said that the Department of Health, which commissioned the IT project during the tenure of the last Labour government, is "not going to achieve its original aim" of one-size fits-all.

Launched in 2002, the project is nearly a decade in, and has yet to be rolled out to practitioners and health service professionals across the country. Only 10 out of 166 health trusts across the United Kingdom have received only a basic system.

But once seen as a "worthwhile aim", not "proved beyond the capacity of government to deliver".

The Department of Health, which had £11.4bn to spend on the project, is now examining whether the remaining £4.3bn could be "better spent elsewhere".

While ending the contract with the current IT supplier of systems could be more costly than continuing with it, other suppliers such as UK telecoms giant BT is under criticism also. In some cases, BT was paid £9m to implement systems at each NHS site, while the same systems were purchased for under £2m at others.

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