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NHS IT programme losing political support in run up to election

Simon Quicke

The large scale NHS IT project kicked off by Blair's government more than a decade ago is facing the prospect of losing political backing under a change of government.

But according to a BBC Radio 4 programme aired tonight the government is moving to lock down the current suppliers for the NHS National Programme for IT in the next few weeks.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberals are looking to scrap the programme but File on 4 revealed that the current government is looking to reset the current contracts in the next few weeks to tie-in suppliers CSC and BT and make it difficult for a future government to change the plans.

"The government says it wants a new agreement with the suppliers by the end of this month but it says that this is normal business because it is trying to review the costs," broadcast File on 4 reporter Gerry Northam.

"The problem is that once you are locked into one of those well crafted contracts getting out of it could be a very expensive process," Northam added.

Already the scene has been set for public sector cuts and the recently failure of large scale government IT projects which overrun both time and budgets could provoke a more cynical eye towards more activity in the future.

Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, said that a decision to push through contract re-negotiations could be a 'poison pill' to make life difficult for the Tories.

"Labour's decision to try and push through a new agreement on the NPfIT before the election could be dangerous for its long-term viability," he said.

"One would hope that government IT failures of the past have taught the appropriate lessons to guard against such a move. These lessons surround areas like: conducting appropriate supplier diligence; planning meticulously; setting realistic expectations; and aiming for short-term milestones rather than one distant 'Holy Grail'," he added.

For more coverage of this issue see our sister magazine www.computerweekly.com  
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