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NHS's £6bn IT project in trouble, leaked email reveals

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Leaked emails have revealed that Richard Granger, the head of Connecting for Health, the £6.2bn project to revamp the NHS' IT infrastructure, believes the project is in grave danger of being derailed.

He blames senior civil servants in the Department of Health for the delays, saying that the electronic booking project no longer resembled its original specification, and that the whole Connecting for Health programme is threatened as a result.

Earlier this month, the government was forced to announce that the Choose-and-Book part of the system was running a year behind schedule. Just 20,000 people have so far made use of the service against a target of a quarter of a million. It should allow patients a choice of where they will be treated when referred to specialists, and is meant to be able to handle close to 10m referrals a year.

Now it has emerged that in September, Granger was already pointing the finger at Margaret Edward, director for access and patient choice in the Department of Health.

He says that the delay is down to her repeated requests for last minute changes to the system, and accuses her of failing to take his advice, The Sunday Times reports.

The newspaper quotes from Granger's email to Edwards:

"Choose and Book’s £20m IT build contract is now in grave danger of derailing (not just destabilising) a £6.2 billion programme... Unfortunately, your consistently late requests will not enable us to rescue the missed opportunities and targets.

"The original request from your predecessor and yourself was for an Electronic Booking System. The change of this to Choose and Book occurred in (Q2) 2003. This was the first of what are now recurrent major changes in your requirements."

He was replying to an email she sent to him on 9 September, alerting him to the problems with the Choose-and-Book project, and admitting that the department had, at that stage, not told ministers there was a problem.

Her email notes that 32 foundation Trust hospitals are not yet logged on the system, and a further 10 private healthcare establishments are also missing from the so-called choice-menu that will be offered to patients.

The hospitals not included on the list will be unable to compete for patients, as they are supposed to, and could be passed over for funding as a result.

At the time of writing, Connecting for Health had not returned calls seeking comment. ®

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