Another NHS IT disaster analysed
The National Audit Office has today published the findings from its investigation into the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES), an IT system designed to allow NHS organizations to extract data from all GP practice computer systems in England. This data would be used to monitor quality, plan and pay for health services and help medical research.
The key findings of the investigation are as follows:
· The project has been significantly delayed and many customers have yet to receive data. The original business case said the service would start in 2009-10, but it took until April 2014 for Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) to provide the first GPES data extract to a customer.
· Mistakes in the original procurement and contract management contributed to losses of public funds, through asset write-offs and settlements with suppliers. The total expected cost of the GPES programme increased from £14 million to £40 million during the planning and procurement stage. Further cost increases have been smaller, but the project has had at least £5.5 million of write-offs and delay costs. The need for the service remains and further public expenditure is needed to improve GPES or replace it.
· Only one customer, NHS England has so far received data from GPES. The time needed to design a new type of extract and restrictions in the contracts severely limits HSCIC’s ability to provide data to those who request it. It is unlikely that GPES in its current form can provide the NHS-wide service planned.
These issues were brought to the attention of the National Audit Office through its financial audit of the HSCIC. The NAO observed during its visit that the system was not working as expected and that additional costs had been incurred through a settlement with one of the main suppliers, Atos IT Services UK Ltd.