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MPs slam mandarins over failed GP IT system

Public Accounts Committee asks: Have you learned nothing?

Updated MPs have today slammed "the severe failures" of an IT system designed to allow the extraction of data from all GP practice computer systems in England.

The General Practice Extraction Service started five years too late, is over-budget and still does not provide the full service required, said a report by the Committee of Public Accounts. Costs have ballooned from £14m to £40m during that time.

The system was designed to extract data from the four major clinical IT systems used by GPs, with Atos awarded the contract in December 2011 to produce the central software required to interact with each of these systems.

The report singled out Atos as not showing "an appropriate duty of care to the taxpayer” and comments that it "appears to have acted solely with its own short term best interests in mind".

It said: "Atos, supplier for a key part of the system, may have met the letter of its contractual obligations but took advantage of a weak client by taking the client’s money while knowing full well that the whole system had not been properly tested."

The committee is urging the Cabinet Office to review Atos’s relationships as a supplier to the Crown, and to ensure the reasons for the project’s failure “are disseminated widely to reinforce the steps that need to be taken to avoid such mistakes being repeated again”.

However, it also found the Department of Health did not ensure effective governance was in place for the project and said “very common mistakes” from previous projects were repeated, such as adopting the wrong contracting approach, failing to ensure continuity of key staff, and failing to undertake proper testing before accepting the system.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the PAC, said today: “Once again we see a failure in a Government IT project at huge cost to the taxpayer.

“It’s incredible that basic mistakes on contract and project management are still being made, from inadequate testing to woeful governance. “We keep calling for ‘lessons to be learned’ and keep receiving reassurances from senior accounting officers that they are.

"Yet the same issues occur time after time. It’s simply not good enough. The Government needs to get its house in order, properly address these very serious failings and ensure public money is not squandered in such an irresponsible manner.”

The reported also noted at least £5.5 million in writeoffs, additional settlements and delay costs, it added. ®


An Atos spokeswoman said: “We welcomed the opportunity to have given evidence at the PAC hearing. At the hearing we made clear that given we were one of eight suppliers and not acting as the System Integrator we did not have visibility of the end-to-end programme in order to advise the NHS IC on the overall programme.

“On the part of the system we built, we collaborated fully with NHS IC adding additional functionality as requested and where issues were found we fixed them quickly at our own cost.”

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