'Little delay' to NHS IT upgrade

The upgrading of NHS computers will not see "significant" delays despite a firm pulling out of most of its work on the project, the government has said.

BBC News - September 29, 2006

Original text from news.bbc.co.uk

Accenture has handed over 1.9bn of its contracts to the US company Computer Sciences Corporation.

It is the latest hitch for the 6.2bn Connecting for Health programme which saw delays following problems at another contractor, iSoft.

But Health Minister Lord Warner denied the scheme had suffered a "huge blow".

Connecting for Health aims to link more than 30,000 GPs with nearly 300 hospitals by 2014.

Lord Warner told BBC Radio 4's World Tonight: "We cannot expect a 10-year programme on this scale... a massive civilian project, to actually never have any hiccups along the way."

But he stressed: "I don't believe this will mean any significant delay. CSC have got a good track record...

"I would expect there to be a smooth transfer of responsibilities."

'Undermines confidence'

Accenture had responsibility for the roll-out in the North East and East of England but is making big losses on the work and faced fines for late delivery.

However, the firm will keep responsibility for other parts of the NHS programme.

The Conservatives have called for the project to be reconsidered.

Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said Accenture's withdrawal poses "embarrassing questions" for Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

"With Accenture - the most experienced of the primary contractors saying they are going to cut their losses - that seriously undermines confidence in the whole programme," he said.

Last week, the magazine Computer Weekly reported there had been 110 major technical glitches to the project in last four months.

Connecting for Health said the performance compared "favourably" with the IT provisions of other large-scale organisations.