National Audit Office claims NPfIT ‘falling far below expectations’


The National Programme for IT (NPfIT) is not short of critics, but the National Audit Office (NAO) has joined the throngs slamming the project.

In a report on the IT plans for the NHS, entitled "an update on the delivery of care records systems," the NAO claimed the process to digitalise patient details was "falling far below expectations" and there was no chance of achieving the 2016 deadline of getting all patients on board.

"The original vision for the National Programme for IT in the NHS will not be realised," said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.

"The NHS is now getting far fewer systems than planned, despite the Department paying contractors almost the same amount of money. This is yet another example of a department fundamentally underestimating the scale and complexity of a major IT-enabled change programme."

Since the beginning of NPfIT's implementation back in 2005, the incomplete scheme has cost the taxpayer 2.7 billion the original estimation was 2.3 billion over three years. The NAO says this figure "does not represent value for money" and the further 4.2 billion set to be spent falls into the same trap.

Morse has called for the Department of Health (DoH) to "admit that it is now in damage-limitation mode."

"I hope that my report today, together with the forthcoming review by the Cabinet Office and Treasury, announced by the Prime Minister, will help to prevent further loss of public value from future expenditure on the Programme," he added.

A spokesperson from the DoH said the department agreed change was necessary for NPfIT to work and the original scheme was "flawed" but contested the NOA's claims of wasting money.

"We do think the investment made so far in the NPfIT will potentially deliver value for money now that we have a more flexible approach that allows the local NHS to be in charge of its own requirements," they said.

The DoH will officially respond to the report on 23 May following a Public Accounts hearing. Prime Minister David Cameron also told the House of Commons last week decisions on changing the scheme again would only be made after this date and subsequent to the Major Projects Authority Review, due to begin on the same day.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.