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Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she plans to maintain incentive payments to general practitioners to use the choose and book system. (123758)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance her Department has issued to local service providers on delivering the integrated NHS national programme for IT; and what requirements have been placed on such providers; (123994)

(2) how many local service providers have indicated that they will not be delivering the national integrated programme for IT; and if she will make a statement.

The role of national programme local service providers (LSPs) is to deliver information technology systems and services across the national health service within clusters of strategic health authorities, in London (BT), the south (Fujitsu), and the north, midlands and east (CSC). LSPs ensure the integration of existing local systems and, where necessary, implement new systems so that the national applications can be delivered locally, while maintaining common standards. All LSPs have contracted to develop and deliver a fully integrated NHS care record solution, and are in the process of doing so.

Like all contracts, those between the Department and the LSPs provide for obligations and undertakings on either party. Among the key requirements which the contracts place on the LSPs are that functions and services are shown to work before they are bought. If providers do not deliver to their contractual obligations they are not paid. In this way the cost of non-delivery rests with the supplier, not the taxpayer. So, for example, we have retained extensive rights under the contracts to defer payments, receive compensation for missed milestones and, if necessary, terminate contracts, for failure to achieve required performance or deployment activity. We also reserve the right to consent to the appointment of key personnel of the prime contractor and material subcontractors, and have an interventionist approach to assurance including step-in rights or the appointment of a third party in certain critical circumstances if necessary.

These arrangements have been devised to secure an optimum balance between cost, risk, incentive and quality of outcome for the provision of the systems and services that we have specified for the benefit of patients, the NHS and taxpayers.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what criteria her Department is employing to determine whether the NHS national programme for IT is successful; and if she will make a statement. (123996)

The successes of the national programme are visible every day of the week in hospitals, general practices and pharmacies across the national health service, and the benefits are being experienced by doctors, nurses and, most importantly, patients. On any typical day the national programme currently enables over 100,000 prescriptions to be transmitted electronically, reducing errors and inefficiencies; 16,000 choose and book electronic bookings to be made, putting patients in charge of their care and reducing significantly the numbers not attending outpatient appointments; almost 1.5 million queries to be processed on the patient demographic system, ensuring receipt of around three-quarters of a million letters a year that would otherwise be posted to the wrong address and enabling patient information to be handled more efficiently; over 100,000 NHSmail users, each of whom has an email address for life, to send 1 million secure emails, one third of which contain confidential patient information; 20 new secure broadband connections to be installed; and 33,000 general practitioners (GPs) to use the quality management analysis system (QMAS) to deliver better care to patients under the new GP contract.

Meanwhile, we are developing plans to respond to a recommendation, made by the National Audit Office in its June 2006 report on the national programme, for the publication of an annual statement quantifying the benefits delivered by all aspects of the programme, set against the costs incurred. The aim is for the first statement, to include information for 2006-07, to be available in summer 2007.