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Lansley pulls the plug on NHS IT programme

The Department of Health has officially announced the breakup of the £12.7bn National Programme for IT, although details regarding specific applications, including Healthspace, remain unclear.

It was announced in May that the entire programme was to be reviewed by the Major Projects Authority, following widespread accusations that it was not fit for purpose and was wasting public money.

The Secretary of Health will announce detailed plans about how the programme will be replaced in November, however, it is likely that Spine, N3 Network, NHSmail, Choose and Book, Secondary Uses Service and Picture Archiving and Communications Service will remain, as the MPA said ‘they will continue to provide vital support to the NHS.'

The only mention of Healthspace refers to the Summary Care Record, which will be ‘maintained'. However, the future of the overall application, which also includes Communicator, remains unclear. A spokesperson from the DH could not confirm what was happening with Healthspace.

It is expected that the announcement in autumn will outline an IT programme that will involve ‘local decision-making' and encourage small and medium sized companies to provide local and flexible IT systems.

The MPA said of the established applications, such as Spine, Choose and Book and NHSmail: ‘Their delivery accounts for around two thirds of the £6.4bn money spent so far and they will continue to provide vital support to the NHS. However, the review reported the National Programme for IT has not and cannot deliver to its original intent.'

A spokesperson for the DH said: ‘The NPfIT achieved much in terms of infrastructure and this will be maintained, along with national applications, such as the Summary Care Record and Electronic Prescriptions Service, which are crucial to improving patient safety and efficiency.'

‘We need to move on from a top down approach and instead provide information systems driven by local decision-making. This is the only way to make sure we get value for money and that the modern NHS meets the needs of patients.'

Andrew Lansley said: ‘Labour's NHS IT Programme let down the NHS and wasted taxpayers' money by imposing a top-down IT system on the local NHS, which didn't fit their needs.'

‘We will be moving to an innovative new system driven by local decision-making. This is the only way to make sure we get value for money from IT systems that better meet the needs of a modernised NHS.'