The Labour government has decided to significantly cut-down the cost of the £12 billion IT scheme for the NHS. Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will announce the cut in the Pre-Budget report on Wednesday.
The project, a part of the National Program for IT. is reportedly running four years late due to several setbacks and escalating costs and has been hit by a wave of criticisms ever since plans for it were unveiled back in 2002.
The IT program for NHS aimed at combining all the medical data and records in all NHS hospitals in a central database which can be accessed by 300 hospitals and 30,000 doctors across the UK. It should also allow online booking and e-prescriptions along with providing a faster link between NHS computers.
The budget cut of the National Program for IT will allow the Labour government to save almost £600 million as the UK government already said that it would dramatically overhaul NHS plans by "November 2009".
Mr Darling, talking to BBC, said that the NHS computer system was quite expensive and is not ‘essential to the frontline’. The Chancellor added that he will announce, during the pre-budget report, the sections which will see a cut-down in spending as planned before.
The Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats took this announcement as the Labour government’s admission of failure.
Andrew Lansley, Shadow health secretary, expressing his satisfaction on the ‘massive u-turn’ by the government, said that it was about time that the government decided to ‘slash’ the NHS IT program as it was costing billions of pounds without any return.
The NHS IT project has been a very controversial one ever since it was launched because it involved some of the biggest entities in the world coupled with very complex and massive databases, heterogeneous computer systems and masses of users. Like a hot potato, whoever will inherit of the NHS IT project will face some very tough decisions.