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The Liberal Democrat Party has repeated its call for a review of the NHS National Programme for IT.

The party's shadow health secretary Norman Lamb used a recent interview with soon-to-be departing NHS IT chief Richard Granger in CIO UK magazine as ammunition to push for an independent inquiry.

In the article, Granger admits: "Sometimes we put stuff in that I'm ashamed of," while labelling one contractor's equipment recently installed as "appalling".

Granger is calling the contractor to account but Lamb, responding on 11 July 2007,said: "What is 'appalling' is that Richard Granger repeatedly defended the disaster prone NHS IT system when he was responsible for its delivery. Now that he has stepped down, he is more candid with the truth."

The Lib Dems' proposals for a review, originally published in March this year, list a number of system failures. These include: the patient record system at Queen Mary's hospital in Sidcup, which was reported as frequently being unavailable; the loss of patient records at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, following Fujitsu's installation of Cerner's software; and the breakdown of CSC's data centre in July last year, which affected 80 trusts.

"How soon will it be before another technical glitch puts patients' lives at risk?" remarked Lamb. "Any discussion with people working in the NHS leaves an overwhelming sense of loss of confidence in the project. The government cannot continue to charge ahead with the system, blind to ever more stark warnings. We must have a thorough independent review with no more uncommitted spending until that review is complete."

In the interview, Granger hit back at reports suggesting that the programme was way over budget. He said, for example, that the original figure did not include Picture Archiving and Communications Systems (PACS), which was a late addition to the scope of the project.

Lamb told GC News that he was committed to the need for investment in NHS IT systems, particularly with local health networks, but was not persuaded by the "grandiose, top-down approach" adopted by the government.

Describing the NPfIT as being "botched from the start", he added: "There wasn't a proper system review at an early stage, which leads to building things that are not necessarily in line with user needs. With him (Granger) leaving, it strikes me as an opportune moment, with a new secretary of state for health, to stand back and have a proper independent review."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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