Press release

Dismantling the NHS National Programme for IT

The government today announced an acceleration of the dismantling of the National Programme for IT.

The government today announced an acceleration of the dismantling of the National Programme for IT, following the conclusions of a new review by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority (MPA). The programme was created in 2002 under the last government and the MPA has concluded that it is not fit to provide the modern IT services that the NHS needs.

In May 2011 the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that the MPA would be reviewing the NHS National Programme for IT. 

The MPA found that there have been substantial achievements which are now firmly established, such as the Spine, N3 Network, NHSmail, Choose and Book, Secondary Uses Service and Picture Archiving and Communications Service.  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.

In a modernised NHS, which puts patients and clinicians in the driving seat for achieving health outcomes amongst the best in the world, it is no longer appropriate for a centralised authority to make decisions on behalf of local organisations.  We will continue to work with our existing suppliers to determine the best way to deliver the services upon which the NHS depends in a way which allows the local NHS to exercise choice while delivering best value for money.

A new partnership with Intellect, the Technology Trade Association, will explore ways to stimulate a marketplace that will no longer exclude small and medium sized companies from participating in significant government healthcare projects.

The Department of Health said:

“The exchange of information between patients and clinicians and across the NHS is a fundamental part of how we are centring care on patients and making sure innovation and choice are fully supported.  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.  But 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.”

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

“This Government will not allow costly failure of major projects to continue. That’s why we have set up the Major Projects Authority - to work in collaboration with central Government Departments to help us get firmer control of our major projects, and ensure there is a more systematic approach by departments as well as regular, planned scrutiny to keep projects on track.”

“The National Programme for IT embodies the type of unpopular top-down programme that has been imposed on front-line NHS staff in the past. Following the Major Projects Authority review, we now need to move faster to push power to the NHS frontline and get the best value for taxpayers’ money.”

Sir David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS, said:

“A modernised NHS needs information systems that are driven by what patients and clinicians want.  The NPfIT has provided us with a foundation but we now need to move on if we are going to achieve the efficiency and effectiveness required in today’s health service.  Restoring local control over decision-making and enabling greater choice for NHS organisations is key as we continue to use the secure exchange of information to drive up quality and safety.”

The Managing Director for Informatics at the Department of Health, Katie Davis, said:

“There are two important things we must achieve - the development of a vibrant marketplace for healthcare IT and clarity that we no longer manage delivery centrally unless there is a single, clear requirement across the NHS.  We have a great opportunity to build a new way of working which helps patients and clinicians gain the best value for public money.  I am instituting a full review of all Department of Health informatics applications and services to ensure that everything we do is compatible with these aims.  Later this autumn, I will announce what work will continue, alongside a framework for providing IT support to the NHS as it modernises.”

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