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NPfIT boss prepares to cut failing suppliers

And renames the whole shebang for good measure

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Key suppliers in the NHS' £6.2bn IT project are to be replaced because they are not delivering, according to Richard Granger, director general of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT). Granger would not say which companies are failing, but confirmed that none of the four main local service providers - BT, Accenture, CSC and Fujitsu - is in the danger zone.

Contracts are set up so that no one is paid until work is done, but in those areas still behind schedule, Granger is prepared to cut non-performing contractors, the Financial Times reports: "If suppliers cannot do the job, they will be replaced. Some of that will occur over the next few months."

He went on to acknowledge that progress on the ten-year project has been, and will continue to be, difficult. He recognised that the project had suffered delays, but told delegates at the Healthcare Computing Conference in Harrogate that "substantial progress" has been made: kit is beginning to be installed, and pilot projects have been returning encouraging results.

But he hit out at detractors, accusing them of looking for failure, and saying that a "dip" in the project was only to be expected.

"We have this national sickness about what the French call grands projects," he said. "When it goes into an entirely predictable dip, and when it has to deal with a lot of real problems, we get this attack on the programme."

Granger could be accused of being slightly disingenuous here. The NPfIT has always been a highly controversial project, and has been opposed by many people in the medical profession since its earliest days. Project managers have also been criticised for failing to consult sufficiently with GPs, many of whom oppose core elements of the project, saying patient data could be at risk.

In January this year, the National Audit Office warned that if low levels of GP support were not addressed, the project was in danger of missing its deadlines. The British Medical Association has also warned its members to avoid trialling the flagship Choose and Book referrals service, also over fears that it could compromise patient confidentiality.

Finally, in the best tradition of projects in trouble, the NPfIT is being renamed and will now be known as Connecting for Health. ®

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GPs have no faith in £6bn NHS IT programme
Flagship NHS project in danger
NPfIT must win medical hearts and minds

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