Confusion surrounds the future of the job running the NHS's £12.4bn flagship IT programme, and the timetable for the departure of director-general Richard Granger.
On announcing his decision to step down from his position running the National Programme for IT in the NHS and as chief executive of Connecting for Health (CfH) in June last year, Granger initially indicated he would leave in October last year.
Granger was still there in December, however, and the NHS said the former Andersen and Deloitte management consultant would leave his £280,000-a-year post at the end of 2007, after five years in the job.
But an NHS spokesman admitted this week that Granger is currently still in the role and said they at the moment they did not know what the timetable was for his departure. The spokesman confirmed Granger is still employed by the department and not working on any sort of consultancy basis.
The CfH programme aims to replace an ageing patchwork of 5,000 different computer systems with a nationwide infrastructure connecting more than 100,000 doctors, 380,000 nurses and 50,000 other health professionals by the end of the decade.
The prospects for the IT director-general's role will not become clear until a review of the "management arrangements" for taking the NHS IT programme forward has been completed.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said at Christmas a decision about the interim management arrangements would be finalised within a "few weeks" — but no decision had been made as of this week.
The review is part of NHS chief executive David Nicholson's wider examination of how the health service uses informatics and technology to improve patient care.
Granger has always been quick to head off any criticism of the NHS IT programme by citing statistics about the number of systems delivered — in June last year there were 355,754 registered users of the Spine, more than 23 million prescription messages transmitted using the Electronic Prescription Service, almost four million Choose and Book bookings and 19,687 connections to the N3 broadband network.
The rollout of the Pacs digital X-ray and scanning technology to health trusts across England was also completed in December.
But there are still problems and delays. Those on the frontline are quick to point to the fact that the core NHS Care Records Service is running late and that take up of Choose and Book is much slower than the original plan.
There have also been problems with suppliers. Some have been fined for delays, while others, such as IDX, have been ditched. In 2006, Accenture controversially withdrew from its £2bn worth of NHS contracts to deliver new patient and GP systems in the east and north-east regions.