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Speaking in Parliament, the Liberal Democrats claimed the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), said to be the world's largest civil IT project, was failing to meet the government's own targets.

Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, Tim Farron, said health secretary Patricia Hewitt's claim that the project will cost £6.2bn was at odds with the chief operating officer's prediction of costs in excess of £15bn.

He asked Department of Health minister of state Andy Burnham: "Will you commit today to a full independent, technical and financial audit of this project to ensure that public money is spent on the public's priorities?"

Burnham replied: "The gentleman is right to say that this is indeed a major investment in the NHS. However, in contrast to NHS projects of the past, payment will be made only when the project is delivered. When the project is delivered, it will go further in improving patient care in the NHS. It will deliver more benefits to patients."

Farron told Government Computing News that he was aware the National Audit Office was due to release its independent review of the NPfIT project later this year but that "the review will only consider if the project will be delivered on time and not whether it is technically feasible or at what cost. Therefore an independent review is necessary".

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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