NHS IT 'would be better' without £6bn scheme

The £6.6bn project to computerise the National Health Service has not helped NHS IT – rather it has U-turned any progress, one of its former leaders has revealed.

Blunders to the UK-wide scheme, which is already two years behind schedule, have been so monumental that the public sector organisation would be better offer if it had never implemented it.

Such are the findings from 12 pages of project analysis, thought to be authored by David Kwo, ex-Connecting for Health chief in London, which have been sent to the Public Accounts Committee, the government's spending watchdog.

Obtained by The Observer, they reveal the sheer number of IT problems has prompted GPs to implement their own systems, while others have opted for legacy ones – the systems the programme was meant to replace.

"This step backwards has been taken simply to try to demonstrate to the government and general public that the programme is delivering something," the document reportedly states.

News of the document's existence emerged after computer systems at 80 hospitals and NHS trusts across the West Midlands and the North West crashed last week for four days – the biggest IT failure in NHS history.

Although the author of the revelations is yet to be confirmed reports suggest David Kwo as the likeliest candidate, given the MS-Word document identifies it was written on his computer.

"The conclusion here is that the NHS would most likely have been better off without the national programme," the document says.

"The national programme has not advanced the NHS IT implementation trajectory at all; in fact, it has put it back from where it was going."

The gloomy exposé also attacks the National Audit Office, after the independent watchdog hailed "substantial progress" for NHS IT in June, citing swift procurement and in-budget IT contracts.

"The NAO report is a travesty because it simply published what the national programme claims is its deployment statistics. This is useless without target data as to what was supposed to be deployed," the document states.

Elsewhere, it warns the trend of frustrated GPs adopting their own personal IT system is having the corrosive effect of "fragmenting the national programme even further."

Coupled with last week's unprecedented IT failure, the findings have prompted Richard Bacon MP, the minister who was sent the document, to urge ministers to terminate the scheme.

"The billion pounds spent already could have been used to run 10 general district hospitals for a year," he said.

"Now it is clear that patient safety and public health could be at risk. It is time to halt this programme before things get worse."

Although all the hospitals impacted by IT failure had their systems backed-up, one affected trust, the Birmingham Children's hospital has warned a patient's data will be overlooked "sooner or later" if they keep relying on manual intervention.

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