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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 23:43 GMT 00:43 UK
New inquiry into NHS IT upgrade
Image of a computer
The IT upgrade is taking 10 years to complete
Auditors are to launch another inquiry into the 6.8bn NHS IT upgrade project.

The National Audit Office only reported in June on the scheme to link 30,000 GPs with 300 hospitals in England, Computer Weekly magazine says.

The programme, run by a government agency called Connecting for Health, has proved controversial.

The original NAO report criticised delays in the project and said it was facing a challenging future, but was not as hard-hitting as expected.

KEY PARTS OF NHS IT UPGRADE
Choose and book - A system to allow patients to book hospital appointments at a place, date and time of their convenience from GP surgeries. Nearly 10m such referrals are made each year
NHS care records service - An electronic database of patient medical records which will allow NHS staff across the country to access information wherever someone is treated
Electronic prescriptions - More than 325m prescriptions are made each year. By 2007 the paper-based system will be replaced with an electronic version, which will allow patients to pick up repeat prescriptions from any pharmacy in the country

Last month, the BBC revealed that a number of alterations had been made to the original draft after it was circulated to officials involved in the 10-year project.

The NAO insisted the overall findings had not been changed amid criticism from opposition MPs.

The project has also been dogged by criticisms from doctors, who say they were not consulted properly and that the new systems are a risk to patient confidentiality.

These systems include an online booking system, a centralised medical records system for 50m patients, e-prescriptions and fast computer network links between NHS organisations.

The NAO said the exact remit and timescale of the new investigation had not been decided yet.

"When we published the report we said we may revisit it and that is what we are doing," said a spokesperson.

MPs said the announcement was welcome after the controversy over the last report.

Greg Clark, of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "We felt the original report raised more questions than it answered.

"We will be following this with interest."

A spokeswoman for Connecting for Health said the agency had always expected another inquiry and it would "co-operate fully".

Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said: "Ministers are taking an utterly complacent view when the IT programme is running two years late and there are major question marks over the delivery of software and effective user involvement."




SEE ALSO
NHS report 'criticisms deleted'
18 Aug 06 |  Health
Q&A: NHS IT upgrade
15 Jun 06 |  Health
GPs dissatisfied with IT system
30 May 06 |  Health

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