The following appeared in the Financial Times a day or so ago.
Turmoil over NHS records scheme
By Nicholas Timmins, Public Policy Editor
Published: December 6 2009 20:59 | Last updated: December 6 2009 20:59
The world’s biggest civilian IT project was thrown into turmoil on Sunday after Alistair Darling, the chancellor, implied that it was going to be scrapped.
The chancellor told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the £12.7bn NHS IT programme – already running years late – was “something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now”.
Treasury officials rushed to explain that the government was looking for “significant savings” of up to perhaps £600m over the medium term by cutting back some features that are less important for patients.
A senior health department official, meanwhile, said bluntly that “the chancellor mis-spoke” in saying the project to create an electronic medical record would be scrapped.
Much more here (subscription required):
This has been also covered here:
Troubled £12bn NHS IT system to be scaled back
The government is to scale back its £12bn NHS IT system in what the Tories are calling a "massive U-turn".
Chancellor Alistair Darling said he would be delaying parts of the scheme in Wednesday's pre-Budget Report as it was "not essential to the front line".
The move may save hundreds of millions but Mr Darling admitted it was only a fraction of total spending cuts needed.
The Tories and Lib Dems have been calling for the IT system, which has been hit by costly delays, to be axed.
Mr Darling told BBC One's Andrew Marr show he was determined to halve Britain's budget deficit over the next four years and as a result public spending would be "a lot tighter than it was in the past".
He stressed that the pre-Budget report was not a spending review, but added: "I do think it is necessary for me to indicate areas where we are going to cut spending or where we're not going to spend as much as we were.
"For example, the NHS had a quite expensive IT system that, frankly, isn't essential to the front line.
Lots more from the BBC here:
And some detailed commentary here:
NHS IT scheme to be scaled back
Monday 07 December 2009 08:42
The chancellor Alistair Darling and the Treasury are to scale back spending on the NHS's National Programme for IT.
Although the BBC reports that the NPfIT "may be cancelled in Wednesday's pre-Budget report", the Treasury has said that only parts of the programme will be scaled back.
Alistair Darling told the BBC yesterday that the NPfIT "isn't essential to the frontline" . This contradicts the previous position of health ministers and officials: that the national programme will help avoid unnecessary deaths by giving doctors information on allergies, drugs that can cause adverse reactions, and other important information at the point of care.
The e-prescriptions part of the NPfIT is aimed at cutting the number of deaths caused by errors in medications.
Darling said: "I'm not doing a spending review just now. But I do think it is necessary for me on Wednesday to indicate areas where we are going to cut spending, or where we're not going to spend as much as we were.
"For example, the NHS had a quite expensive IT system that, frankly, isn't essential to the frontline. It's something that I think we don't need to go ahead with just now. But I will be setting out a clear direction of travel because it's important that we do that."
It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the work being undertaken by iSoft and Cerner as key software providers for the program.
I note Gary Cohen of iSoft is reported by the Australian Financial Review saying that the changes could be a positive – although the share price today has not really reflected that view (-3.4% today vs Market down -0.19%) Usual disclaimer about having a few shares.
With so much progress having been made one hopes the UK will avoid the ‘baby and bathwater problem’. That outcome is always a risk as governments cast around to save money.