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MPs hear catalogue of disasters in NHS IT

By Ian Cameron

Connecting for Health's dismal failure to consult clinicians has led to delays of up to two years in key NHS IT projects, doctors have told MPs.

Two former clinical advisers to the multi-billion pound IT programme told the Public Accounts Committee that they had resigned in protest at the lack of clinical engagement.

One said he quit after being asked to come up with a bogus list of hundreds of doctors who had been consulted by the programme.

Dr Anthony Nowlan, a former NHS Information Authority official, said he had refused to co-operate and resigned because his position had 'been compromised.'

Professor Peter Hutton, a former chief medical officer to the IT programme, said he had been given a list of clinicians who had been consulted by Connecting for Health in late 2003.

He told MPs that he rang 10 people from the list last week and they had no recollection of ever having been consulted.

Professor Hutton added that he was asked to resign days after voicing concerns about the lack of clinical input. He said: 'Key decisions were taken in the early period without proper clinical input and the resulting consequences are still having a major impact on the viability of the core programme.

'Recommendations on Care Records were only developed towards the end of the contracting process – so one can ask what was actually being contracted for?'

MPs used the evidence to interrogate senior officials from Connecting for Health about the costs, risks, problems and delays of the project.

Richard Granger, director general of Connecting for Health and the highest-paid UK civil servant, denied the accusations about the fabricated list.

He insisted there had been 'massive input' to original plans and 'hundreds of people' were being consulted on an ongoing basis. He said: 'There are thousands of clinicians every day using systems, quietly getting on with it.'

A 'stable structure' of clinical engagement had now existed for a year-and-a-half, Mr Gran-ger added.

icameron@cmpi.biz

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