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N3 dominates NHS IT savings

Broadband network contributes £192m of £208m cost cuts

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The N3 broadband network produced nearly all the savings generated by the NHS National Programme for IT to March 2007, according to the government

The Department of Health said that of savings totalling £208m, N3 generated £192m, with digital imaging and scanning saving a further £14m, and software licensing and hardware maintenance contributing £617,000.

The figures were published a part of a benefits statement on the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) released by the department yesterday, covering the period from NPfIT's start in 2004 to the end of March 2007. On the basis of ongoing annual cost reductions, the cumulative savings will total £1.14bn by 2014.

Richard Jeavons, director of IT service implementation at the department, said other aspects of NPfIT, including digital imaging and scanning, would contribute more in future benefit statements, which will be published each year.

"We know that GP2GP will reach maturity, and we will have collected more data from trusts which have implemented care record systems," he said. "I think you'll see more across the whole piece."

According to the statement, only 619 GP2GP systems, allowing electronic transfer of patient data between GPs, had been installed by March 2007. But Jeavons said the figure has since risen to 3,500, representing the majority of surgeries.

The statement also reported that NPfIT had underspent by 47 per cent, costing just £2.4bn by March 2007 compared with its 2004 forecast of £4.5bn by that date. This included £1.3bn on the programme's core contracts, less than half the £2.8bn planned in 2004.

Jeavons said this showed that the contractors are paid only when they deliver. "Delivery has been slower than the original plan," he said, particularly on electronic care records. However, he said he was confident that Lorenzo, the much-delayed patient administration and record system, will be delivered in the next few months.

The department was required to produce the report by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee. The figures only cover one-fifth of trusts, but those chosen were in the vanguard of adopting NPfIT systems. However, as it ignores most trusts, Jeavons said the savings calculation was deliberately conservative.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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