January 27, 2009 / 8:36 AM / 11 years ago

Health Service computer scheme faces further delays

LONDON (Reuters) - A new computer system for holding NHS patient records is already four years late and faces yet more delays, a committee of MPs said on Tuesday.

The 12.7 billion pound project, designed to improve services and quality of care, may now not meet the already delayed target completion date of 2014-15, the Public Accounts Committee said.

“The original aim was for the systems to be fully implemented by 2010,” said chairman Edward Leigh. “The truth is that, while some are complete or well advanced, the major one such as the care records systems are way off the pace.”

A national programme for information technology (IT) in the NHS was launched in 2002 with the aim of overhauling the system under which patients’ electronic records are held.

The huge project is designed to replace the different computer systems used by NHS Trusts, hospitals and GP practices to allow NHS staff to access patient records anywhere in the country.

The MPs said two of the four companies which were producing the programme have pulled out and many areas of the country had not started using care records software. Leigh said essential systems were late and many NHS staff were unenthusiastic.

The department of health said the new IT systems were delivering better and faster care, and costs were under control.

The British Medical Association, which speaks for doctors, said the report highlighted its concerns about cost, reliability and security.

“With the UK deep in recession the government must ensure that connecting for health confronts the lessons of the past — the NHS IT project can’t be paid for with a blank cheque,” said Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA’s head of science and ethics.

“Despite the problems we must not lose sight of the potential benefits that could be delivered in terms of patient safety, by the national programme for IT.”

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Kate Kelland

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