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The National Programme for IT, the £12.7bn scheme to wire up the country's health system, has missed another major deadline - getting iSoft's Lorenzo patient management software running in Morecambe Bay.

The contract is being run by CSC and the NHS stressed it would not be paying the consultants or signing fresh contracts until it had got the software running. CSC is responsible for more than half of the NPfIT but this final failure could push it to walk away.

A Department of Health spokesman sent us the following:

We made clear last year that it is important to improve the certainty of delivery of NHS IT in the acute sector while ensuring that any innovation matches the changing needs of the local NHS. We want Trusts to be able to choose how National Programme for IT products can work with local systems that remain fit for purpose. This new flexible framework is the basis of our Memorandum of Understanding with BT and will be the basis for an MOU we expect to sign with CSC once University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust goes live with Lorenzo. While we are disappointed that we have not been able to agree both MOUs, we are expecting our current review with CSC of delivery plans to achieve significant savings, while building on the gains already made for patients, clinicians and managers.

In the early days of the project we were promised it would provide value for money because it would be run from start to finish by one person and because it would never be hostage to one vendor - there would always be competition for contracts. In reality the man in charge quit and Fujitsu withdrew in 2008, following Accenture's departure in 2006.

If CSC withdraws too the NHS will be left with BT. It was revealed in Parliament yesterday that BT has been hit with 70 default notices for "critical service level failures" since August 2009, E-Health Insider has more.

The project has been plagued with even more than the usual level of government screw-ups.

Primary supplier iSoft almost went bust and had to be bailed out by the taxpayer before such practices became fashionable. A review of iSoft's Lorenzo software found glaring problems as far back as 2004 and said there was no believable plan for releasing updates.

Back in 2007 the Public Accounts Committee demanded immediate remedial action to fix a project which was even then two years late.

Even if the project does not fail on its own it could be a victim of assisted suicide if the Tories win the upcoming election - they've promised big cuts to unspecified IT projects to pay for not increasing National Insurance. ®

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