The Public Accounts Committee is expected to publish a report next week on the results of its investigations into the NPfIT detailed care records systems.
The report is likely to be highly critical of the slow progress and high costs of the detailed care records systems.
It’s possible that the report will criticise Sir David Nicholson who is Chief Executive of the NHS and the Senior Responsible Owner of the NPfIT. He has praised the success of the National Programme to three prime ministers – and before the Public Accounts Committee on 23 May 2011 when he said:
“We spent about 20% of that resource [the £11.4bn projected total spend on the NPfIT] on the acute sector. The other 80% is providing services that literally mean life and death to patients today, and have done for the last period.
“So the Spine, and all those things, provides really, really important services for our patients. If you are going to talk about the totality of the [NPfIT] system … you have to accept that 80% of that programme has been delivered.”
One of the NPfIT’s main supplier CSC is negotiating a memorandum of understanding on its £3bn worth of NHS contracts with the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Group.
The criticisms in next week’s Public Accounts Committee report may make it more difficult for CSC to get the attractive deal it was hoping to sign.
Indeed the negotiations with CSC are a key test of the Cabinet Office’s mandate from Downing street to stop departments signing deals that are good for suppliers and potentially bad for taxpayers.
On the matter of Sir David Nicholson’s role as senior responsible owner of the NPfIT, we should be urging his continuance in the job until the national programme is at an end. It is usually a good idea for a senior responsible owner to stay with a project from start to finish. But that’s assuming the SRO is independent enough to approach ministers for a complete re-think if necessary.
Several years ago Nicholson rejected calls from academics for an independent review of the NPfIT. He suggested it didn’t need one when clearly it did.
It’s time for fresh SRO eyes to look at the NPfIT. The SRO needs to be the harshest critic on any large IT-enabled change programme, not its PR agent.
We look forward to the PAC report.