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Health Service IT

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

The national programme for IT will help us to deliver an NHS fit for the 21st century. In 10 years, it will connect more than 30,000 GPs in England to more than 300 hospitals, giving patients access to their personal health and care information. By the end of March 2006, expenditure on the contracts let at the outset of the programme was £654 million. As the National Audit Office report said:

“The notable progress and tight control of the central aspects of the programme are to be commended”.

Does the Prime Minister agree with Sir John Bourn that value for money on this programme is safeguarded because suppliers will not receive public money for IT projects and services until they are delivered and shown to be working effectively? Can he give the House his personal assurance that that has not happened—for example in relation to iSOFT, whose directors trousered £76 million in share sales prior to their recent share crash?

I do not know about the particular example that the hon. Gentleman gave, but let me explain to him why it is important that we have that information technology programme. In the end, one of the huge benefits of having a national health service is that we can have electronic patient records that are transferable right round the system. If that happens, it means not just an end to vast amounts of paperwork in the NHS, but that things such as patient choice, for example, can become a reality. Contrary to the pre-reports of the National Audit Office report, on the whole the NAO was complimentary about the IT programme. It is a huge programme, but it will deliver real benefits. Of course, we have to make sure that people offer value for money, but by and large the NAO said that we did.