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NHS IT costs hospitals dear

Fujitsu scores £19m compo

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More bad news for the UK government's NHS IT programme - cash-strapped health authorities are having to pay millions in compensation to Fujitsu and CSC .

When contracts were first set up by central government, NHS trusts promised to provide staff to help work on the new systems. But according to reports, health authorities in the south of England have failed to find enough people so they have to pay Fujitsu $19m compensation. The south of England was supposed to find 50 staff to work at Fujitsu.

The Department of Health told the Guardian: "An agreement has been reached to buy out the liability at a cost of £19m in 2006-07 as NHS trusts have decided not to supply the staff resources."

In the north west and west Midlands, the NHS is contracted to provide 50 staff but is struggling to find enough people. Part of the problem is that NHS staff will be paid their standard salary even after moving. The staff were supposed to go to CSC, which is entitled to £6.9m every year for the 10 year term - or just under £70m.

Health trusts are looking at ways to buy their way out of the ageements, according to documents seen by Computer Weekly which has more details here.

The payments collected by Fujitsu came to light thanks to Parliamentary questions from MP Richard Bacon.

Last week, MPs announced they are considering a full audit of the world's largest ever IT project - they fear the budget of £6.5bn will overrun. A BBC survey last week revealed that doctors are very unhappy with the Choose and Book system supposed to deal with hospital appointments.

What's more, Lord Warner said last month that the patient records system was likely to cost £20bn rather than the £6.3bn originally quoted, and arrive two and a half years late.

Government IT projects either fail because of overambitious, and under-achieving, suppliers or because of incompetent and feckless civil servants. Rarely do they manage to do such damage to both suppliers and customers before anything is actually delivered. ®

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