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Government may lift lid on NHS IT project secrecy

The government may do a dramatic U-turn and start releasing the findings of its Gateway Review project management reports on major IT projects.

Health secretary Ben Bradshaw yesterday (26 March) told MPs in a parliamentary written answer on the National Programme for IT in the NHS (NPfIT), "We are reviewing our previous policy not to disclose the review reports in light of the recent decision by the Office of Government Commerce to disclose two Gate 0 review reports on the identity cards programme. No final decision has yet been taken."

Bradshaw failed to remind MPs that the OGC only published the reviews after it was ordered to do so by the government's Information Commissioner.

Gateway Reviews were established in an effort to introduce project management best practice and institute some degree of external oversight of government IT projects, after a string of high profile failures.

However, the Office of Government Commerce, which ordered the introduction of the reviews, insisted their contents and findings remain secret.

The continuing failure of high-profile government IT projects has led to mounting demands for the reviews to be made public.

Gateway Reviews on the troubled National Programme for IT in the NHS would attract immense public interest.

In a separate written answer, Bradshaw insisted that the programme was still on track.

"Many of the programme's systems have already been successfully delivered, and most of the infrastructure, including the network and central databases, are in place, as are the choose and book systems, and Picture Archiving and Communications (digital imaging) systems in every acute trust," the minister said.

"All acute trusts and general practices in England, and over 90 per cent. of primary care trusts, are using systems delivered as part of the programme. The NHS in England could not now function without the systems which the programme has delivered.

Progress has been slower than anticipated with the NHS care record service at local trust level. We continue to work closely with suppliers to ensure that software is fit for purpose before deployment, and are in discussions aimed at ensuring that appreciable improvements are achieved by the end of 2009."

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