Reports that the NHS, which is already running in a loss would have to pay the private sector up to £19m has been confirmed as they are not in a position to fulfil the commitment to supply staff to help design a new IT system for the health services.
The trusts in the south of England were expected to second 50 full-time employees to help develop the £20bn scheme under a deal with Japanese firm Fujitsu. But the health Department has confirmed on Tuesday that they were not able to do so and were compensating the company instead. They explained in a statement that an agreement has been reached to buy out the legal responsibility at a cost of £19m in 2006/07 as NHS trusts have decided that they could not supply the staff resources
The news is the latest setback to the troubled Connecting for Health programme.
Health minister Lord Warner last week attempted to forestall criticism in a forthcoming National Audit Office report, by admitting the project was now two years behind schedule and £14bn over budget. The Conservative MP Richard Bacon, who uncovered the penalties, explained that the trusts in other areas would also face multi-million pound fines if they failed to supply staff to contractors.
He aid that at a time when the NHS trusts were hard-pressed already for finances and are having to make painful choices to reduce deficits, they are now being forced to pay money they don't have, and release staff they can't spare, for something they don't want, and which probably doesn't work. He explained that the NHS is being hit with fines running into tens of millions of pounds, which it simply cannot afford.
A spokesman for Connecting for Health said defending the deals that it was necessary to have active NHS staff to be involved in the designing and implementation of the systems and services that were to be developed. He further stated that it known that it would be difficult to provide NHS staff who were experienced as their presence in for their normal duties was more important.