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Audit Office slams IT system for GP records

Write-offs and delays cost £5.5m

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 02 July 2015

The IT system for GP records has been lambasted by the National Audit Office.

In its report, published today, the National Audit Office (NAO) states that mistakes in the original procurement and contract management of the General Practice Extraction Service (GPES), designed to allow NHS organisations to extract data from all GP practice computer systems in England, contributed to losses of public funds, through asset write-offs and settlements with suppliers.

Key findings of the investigation include:

  • The project has been significantly delayed and many customers have yet to receive data. The original business case said the service would start in 2009-10 but it took until April 2014 for the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), which inherited the project in 2013, to provide the first GPES data extract to a customer.
  • Mistakes in the original procurement and contract management contributed to losses of public funds, through asset write-offs and settlements with suppliers. The total expected cost of the GPES programme increased from £14 million to £40 million during the planning and procurement stage. Further cost increases have been smaller, but the project has had at least £5.5 million of write-offs and delay costs. The need for the service remains and further public expenditure is needed to improve GPES or replace it.
  • Only one customer, NHS England has so far received data from GPES. 

These issues were brought to the attention of the National Audit Office through its financial audit of the HSCIC. The NAO observed during its visit that the system was not working as expected and that additional costs had been incurred through a settlement with one of the main suppliers, Atos IT Services UK Ltd.

Commenting, a spokesperson from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said: “The NAO report states that significant issues occurred with GPES in the years before the inception of the HSCIC, which was created two years ago with a new mandate, structure and senior leadership team. It is clear the GPES procurement and design stage was not good enough, regardless of the intent of predecessor bodies.

“The HSCIC is equally clear that upon our creation we took full responsibility for delivering a data extraction service that is operationally and financially efficient. We are maximising the working aspects of GPES and replacing those parts that do not work. Our focus is on developing a suitable service that meets the needs of the NHS and patients.”

The HSCIC states that it has taken a number of measures to stabilise the service, including installing an “entirely new senior team of technical experts”. 

“After stabilising the service we are working with organisations that have previously made extract requests to agree on their current requirements and be realistic on what can be achieved. We expect to complete 24 different types of data extract in 2015/16.”

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