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Wednesday 26th October 2016

Academics call for NPfIT review

26th April 2006
An “independent technical assessment� of the National Programme for IT has been called for by a group of 23 computer science academics from around the UK.

In an open letter addressed to the House of Commons health select committee, they state: "Concrete, objective information about NPfIT's [National Programme for IT] progress is not available to external observers. Reliable sources within NPfIT have raised concerns about the technology itself.

"The National Audit Office report about NPfIT is delayed until this summer, at the earliest; the report is not expected to address major technical issues. As computer scientists, engineers and informaticians, we question the wisdom of continuing NPfIT without an independent assessment of its basic technical viability."

A department of health (DH) spokesperson said: “The national programme is under constant review, scrutiny and audit by parliament and government bodies. It is a robust and resilient programme of healthcare IT delivery in the NHS.

“We remain confident that the technical architecture of the national programme is appropriate and will enable benefits to be delivered for patients, whilst ensuring value for money to the taxpayer.�

There was no direct comment from Connecting for Health, the DH agency running the national programme.

The letter, originally reported in Computer Weekly, was sent to the select committee by Martyn Thomas, visiting professor of software engineering at Oxford University and expert witness in legal cases involving complex software engineering issues.

Other signatories include: Professor Ewart Carson of the Centre for Health Informatics, City University; Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University; Professor Ray Ison of the Open University and Professor Michael Smith, a former professor of informatics at Keele University and director of information for North Staffordshire Health Authority.

They suggest an assessment should explore whether NPfIT has a robust, comprehensive technical architecture, project plan and detailed design and whether these documents been reviewed by experts of calibre appropriate to the scope of NPfIT.

They add that an independent review would cost a tiny proportion of the proposed £6 billion spend on the national programme and could save many times its cost.

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