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The NHS IT modernisation programme has been labelled as 'like a car without a steering wheel or headlights'.

The attack from Labour MP John Austin came as the Department of Health defended the project against criticism that it will cost five times its £6.2 billion estimate.

Comparing the programme to a car, John Bacon, group director of health and social care delivery at the department, said the extra expense was 'the cost of petrol to put in it and training people to drive it'.

Mr Austin retorted: 'I am not sure I accept your analogy. It sounds more like you bought a car without a steering wheel and headlights.'

GPs joined the ridicule.

Dr Paul Cundy, chair of the GPC IT committee, said the NPfIT was like finding your new car 'was smaller with the steering wheel on the wrong side and the instructions in German'.

Dr Manpreet Pujara added: 'If you buy a car for £12,000 you don't expect to spend £12,000 on petrol'.

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