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Dell begs ToryDems to keep NHS IT project

Please sir, don't take my pork barrel away

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Dell is urging the coalition government not to cut the world's most expensive civilian IT project - the NHS's National Programme for IT.

Parts of the £12.7bn scheme are in the firing line for cuts, not just because of the absurd cost but also because of its unpopularity with doctors and patients.

Harry Greenspun, Dell's "chief medical officer", warned PublicTechnology.net there was a danger the baby was being thrown out with the bath water. He said there was a need to make the technology easier to use and manage, but there were still benefits to be had from increasing computer use in the health service.

But a new health minister, Simon Burns, has been given responsibility for the over-budget project.

Doctors are losing faith in summary care records in particular. The Local Medical Committee has proposed several motions, which if passed will go on to the British Medical Association conference in the summer.

The major complaint is that the Summary Care Record scheme was pushed out across the country before any evaluation of the trials was undertaken. Also controversial was the decision to make people opt out of the service.

One motion says simply: "That conference deplores the way the SCR is being rolled out."

They also call for a proper evaluation of the medico-legal implications of records containing wrong information - doctors have previously said that they do not trust SCRs enough to rely on them for patient data.

The BMA said in March that the roll-out should be stopped.

The SCR seems a likely candidate for cuts, because only a few hundred practises have started uploading records but people have heard of it, so there will be a political benefit to canning it. The bigger question is whether the amputation of SCR is enough to save the rest of the project.

When the NPfIT launched we were promised it would be different to other government IT projects. We were assured there would be one responsible owner; there isn't. Richard Granger quit in 2007.

We were told there would be lots of competing suppliers; there aren't. iSoft needed a government bail-out and Fujitsu and Accenture both decided to walk away. ®

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