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NHS IT failures mount as GP data system declared unfit for purpose

‘Failed projects have long been an expensive cliché … this is no exception’

The towering scrapheap of NHS IT failures may about to rise further, with the increasingly expensive GP Extraction Service IT system deemed not fit for purpose by the government's spending watchdog.

Costs for the GPES IT system, which is supposed to extract data from all GP practices in England, have ballooned from £14m to £40m, with at least £5.5m wasted on write-offs and delay costs, said the National Audit Office.

The GPES has so far managed to provide data for just one customer – NHS England – who received four years later than originally planned.

The NAO said the need for the service remains and further public expenditure is required to improve or replace it.

Meg Hillier, new chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "Failed government IT projects have long been an expensive cliché and, sadly for the taxpayer and service user, this is no exception."

The NAO said additional costs have been incurred through a settlement with one of the main suppliers, Atos.

According to the Major Projects Authority, NHS IT remains in a poor state, with the Department of Health having the highest number of IT projects rated as "unachievable".

These include the hated programme, the NHS Choices website, and the department's new network project.

Several weeks ago hospitals and GPs across England had to resort to fax machines in order to refer patients, thanks to IT problems resulting in the new e-Referrals system being pulled offline.

However, none of these woes compare with that of the £11bn National Programme for IT mega fail, which was eventually written-off in 2011. ®

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