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Care.data ‘looks unachievable’, says Whitehall watchdog



Care.data looks unachievable and the project as a whole may need to be re-assessed, according to a report from the national watchdog on major government projects.

The Major Project Authority – which assesses all ongoing projects across government – has branded care.data with a ‘red’ delivery confidence assessment in their annual report for 2014-15, published on Thursday.

This is the most severe risk rating and indicates that ‘successful delivery of the project appears to be unachievable’.

NHS England officials have said progress has been made since the MPA report was compiled and latest updates give slightly more favourable prospects.

It is the latest blow to the scheme, after NHS England paused it for six months in February 2014 – days before it was due to rollout nationally – for a major overhaul and to ‘build awareness’ of the scheme’s benefits.

The red rating signifies ‘there are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable. The project may need re-scoping and/or its overall viability reassessed.’

The MPA report found the major failing was that NHS England had not yet sufficiently clarified and agreed the scope of care.data, or produced a business plan.

It also calls for better planning of the risks of care.data and how it might impact on other projects, stating: ‘Further enhance programme planning and risk management to ensure dependencies on other national programmes are well understood and managed.’

This includes news earlier this year that 700,000 patients who objected to wider data sharing, during the original launch of care.data, have had those objections over ruled because implementing them would also have prevented those who had objected from receiving invitations to cancer screenings and referrals.

Additionally no budget information has yet been made available for the national scheme, or lifetime costs of the project have been provided.

The MPA report acknowledges that the programme has addressed significant issues that were identified earlier in the programme, such as appointing a senior responsible owner for the scheme.

A spokesperson for NHS England said: ‘This is an old report from eight months ago and since then a lot of work has been done on the programme. A subsequent review undertaken in February of this year reported the care.data programme as amber/ded reflecting the progress made. The programme continues to make progress.’ 

This comes just weeks after the pilot scheme in Blackburn and Darwen CCG annouced it was restarting.