The government is trying to fix a quick deal with suppliers for its controversial £12.7bn NHS IT programme ahead of the next General Election, the BBC has been told.
The NHS IT project is years behind schedule
Industry insiders and the Conservative Party allege the deals, which would be in place by the end of March, would “tie the hands” of whoever forms the next government.
But Health Minister Mike O’Brien said it was “nonsense” to expect the government to suspend negotiations just because of the impending election.
Last December Chancellor Alistair Darling said NHS spending which was not front line, such as parts of the IT project, should be shelved in the coming round of spending cuts.
Digital case notes
The ambitious scheme, which aimed to make patient records digitally available to every surgery and hospital in England, is years behind time.
Originally planned to be completed in 2006, 2015 is the latest estimate for full implementation.
Tory policy would seek to halt the two main contracts and dismantle its central infrastructure.
The Liberal Democrats would like to scrap the programme.
Shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien told File on 4 that Whitehall is trying to reset these contracts within the next four weeks, which could make it harder for whoever forms the next administration to cancel them.
“We are urging the government not to go down that route because we wouldn’t want any further contractual arrangements to be committed,” he said.
He added: “We have heard that there is a process, which is intended to be completed by the end of March, which would have the effect of potentially tying a future government’s hands more rigidly than they would already be under the current contracts.”
Other sources in the IT industry also claim Whitehall is trying to stitch a quick deal.
follow the link to read more about pre-election handling of NHS IT system contract