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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 October 2006, 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK
Query over 12bn NHS IT upgrade
computer mouse (generic)
The upgraded programme includes electronic prescriptions
Scientists who doubt a 12bn NHS computer upgrade will "work adequately" have urged MPs to launch an inquiry.

Experts have signed an open letter to the Commons health select committee calling for the National Programme for IT to be probed.

The upgrade includes electronic prescriptions and centralised medical records for 50 million patients.

Computer Weekly magazine said 23 scientists signed the letter, addressed to committee chairman Kevin Barron.

'Scale of the risks'

The letter states: "As a review will take several months to organise, conduct and report, we believe there is a compelling case for your committee to conduct an immediate inquiry to establish the scale of the risks facing NPfIT."

Martyn Thomas, visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University, and Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, are believed to be the lead signatories.

A spokesman for NHS Connecting for Health said it was "open to scrutiny and recognises that other parties - from a range of backgrounds, not just computer science - may be able to offer helpful perspectives.

"NHS Connecting for Health continues to be ready to engage with independent and appropriately experienced, apolitical experts and NHS Connecting for Health is currently exploring the possibility of creating a reference panel made up of a mix of academic and non-academic disciplines."

Last month, it emerged there had been more than 110 major glitches with the system over the past four months.

The failures were reported to have affected a number of hospitals in England, which have begun using parts of the new programme.

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