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Wanless urges review of NPfIT

Sir Derek Wanless has called for an independent external audit to assess the costs and benefits of the NHS IT programme
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

The government's £12.4bn NHS IT project must be subject to an independent external audit to get it back on track and ensure the promised productivity benefits are delivered, Derek Wanless has warned.

Wanless delivered his verdict in a review of the progress made on the recommendations in his original 2002 report on the level of investment needed in the NHS over the next 20 years.

The new report claims that, despite the increased level of investment in IT in the health service, the problems and delays with the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) have the potential to seriously undermine the productivity gains Wanless envisaged back in 2002.

The report said: "The extent to which the NHS will benefit from these substantial investments remains unclear."

Wanless said the substantial investment in NHS IT is not being adequately audited and evaluated and that it is difficult to obtain reliable data on NHS resources being committed to NPfIT.

Just £500,000 has so far been spent on evaluation and Wanless said Connecting for Health, the NHS agency responsible for the NPfIT, should be subject to "detailed external scrutiny and reporting".

The report said: "There seems a real risk that the costs and benefits of NPfIT will never be accurately assessed."

In particular Wanless singled out the lack of progress made on some of the core NHS IT projects, including the electronic care record service and Choose and Book, and he warned the NPfIT contracts risk creating monopolies by using only two major software suppliers.

Wanless concluded in the report: "It is clear that there are considerable challenges ahead in modernising NHS IT systems, and continuing debate over the feasibility of some current NPfIT plans. The continuing uncertainty and delays have the potential to undermine the productivity gains envisaged by the 2002 review."

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