NPfIT lives on?

Yesterday the Daily Mail ‘exclusively’ splashed the headline ‘£12 billion NHS computer system scrapped’ across its front page.

Having gasped at the check-out and nearly dropping my pint of milk after seeing the headline, the lady at the check-out in Sainsburys must have been concerned at my look of shock. Could the programme really have finally been completely abandoned? Have the contract negotiations with local service provider, CSC, really failed?

It turns out, probably not. Despite almost every national newspaper and health and IT business to business publication picking up on the lead, it turns out that there is really very little that is ‘new.’

Yes, the Major Projects Review of NPfIT has been completed and NHS chief executive, Sir David Nicholson, has written to the NHS regarding the ‘renewed steps’ that the DH is taking to move from a top down centralised system to greater local decision making. But the letter doesn’t actually tell us anything new about how it will be done.

In fact the letter gives little more information than we all knew back in September 2010, when virtually identical ‘Government scraps £12 billion NHS National Programme for IT’ titles hit the headlines of those same newspapers.

Even many of the statements that have been given by Francis Maude, who led the review and the DH, are the same with the exact key words popping up ‘scrapped’ ‘dismantle’ ‘local control’ ‘local decision making’ ‘move away from a top down approach’ and ‘greater choice’

Regardless of all this noise, the press release from the DH sums up the multi-billion dollar question: “We will continue to work with our existing suppliers to determine the best way to deliver the services upon which the NHS depends in a way which allows the local NHS to exercise choice while delivering best value for money.”

So is there anything new at all? Well, despite there clearly being a few rumbles of discontent from high up within the programme, it doesn’t look like the final nail has been put in the NPfIT coffin just yet. The LSP contract negotiations are clearly still ongoing and a subsequent informatics review is yet to follow in the autumn.

However, it does more than hint that there is the likelihood of much more business about to come around for many suppliers previously shut out of the NHS by NPfIT. Those suppliers should already be gearing up to get their message across to potential clients that they are ready and willing to take on the challenge.

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