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A group of IT academics have sent an open letter to the House of Commons Health Select Committee asking them to set up an independent audit of how the programme to modernise IT within the health service is going.

The letter was sent to Computer Weekly and eventually put on its website here and here.

The strongly worded letter warns that the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) has technical challenges that have not been met, that there have been delays in delivering software for the programme, and that two suppliers have issued profit warnings related to the project.

The letter asks questions which would be funny of anything but a government IT project.

The letter asks: "Does NPfIT have a comprehensive, robust: Technical architecture? Project plan? Detailed design?

"Have these documents been reviewed by experts of calibre appropriate to the scope of NPfIT?"

The letter was sent by Martyn Thomas, visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University. It was signed by professors at Brunel University and the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian, Ulster, York, and the LSE and UCL.

The Department of Health sent us a terribly reassuring statement: "The National Programme for IT is under constant review, scrutiny and audit by Parliament and Government bodies. It is a robust and resilient programme of healthcare IT delivery in the NHS. We remain confident that the technical architecture of the National Programme is appropriate and will enable benefits to be delivered for patients, whilst ensuring value for money to the taxpayer."

How do you rate the chances of the NHS getting a decent IT system any time soon? Let us know at the usual address. ®

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