Coalition may scrap flagship NHS IT project

Now that the election's over, it's time to find out what the policies are.

Britain's new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, today laid out plans for IT in the UK as he unveiled the full agreement between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

The 34-page moanifesto laid into the IT record of the previous Labour administration, and outlined the ways in which the new coalition would seek to claw back some of Britain's £163 billion deficit from government IT projects.

The document promises greater transparency over public sector IT projects, with the details of all government ICT contracts published online. The coalition also pledged to "level the playing field" for open-source software developers competing on government projects. It also said that large projects would be broken down into smaller components, giving small contractors a better chance.

Pledges to scrap Labour's national identity card scheme, the next generation of biometric passports and the £224 million ContactPoint database of children under 18, had been well trailed since the parties' initial discussions after the election. So had the placing of extra safeguards on data held in the national DNA database, as the Scottish Parliament has already done.

What was missing from the document was any discussion of Labour's flagship IT project, the National Programme for IT. NPfIT is a scheme to create a centrally-held database of NHS patient data in England, connecting 300 hospitals and more than 30,000 GPs. So far, two of the four IT contractors involved have been fired, and national roll-out was shelved last month after it emerged some patients' data may have been submitted without their knowledge.

Before the election, the Tories pledged to scrap the healthcare IT moneypit, which has so far cost taxpayers an estimated £13 billion. [That's just under the £15-20 billion estimated to replace the Trident nuclear deterrent that the Conservatives do want to keep, fact fans!]

Since then, however, all has gone silent.

The Department of Health refused to confirm rumours that the service was to be scrapped, but promised that the policy would be clarified within the next two weeks. "The finer details haven't been worked out yet," a spokeswoman told THINQ. "These things are going to be worked out in due course."