IT trade body Intellect has asked the government to come clean about funding for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the multibillion-pound NHS IT overhaul, so that implementation costs do not eat into cash reserved for vulnerable IT suppliers.
When NHS Trust chief executives signed their commitment to the NPfIT in December 2003 they agreed: "Local resources will be required to implement these services, a proportion of which is already spent on IT investment."
James Drewer, healthcare programme manager at Intellect, said local Trust IT spending - estimated to be from £850m to £1bn a year - could be engulfed by NPfIT implementation costs.
He acknowledged the government's commitment to increase NHS IT spending from 1.6 per cent to four per cent of total NHS budget by 2008, but questioned whether it would be enough.
"When they say the implementation costs will be taken up by the Trusts - yes, there will be more money for them in the future, but the numbers need clarifying," Drewer said.
Paul Goss, consultant at Silicon Bridge, which tracks NHS IT spending, said some NPfIT implementation costs will be covered by additional funding and some by existing central funding. But he said Trusts are still finding it hard to manage their budgets.
The secrecy with which the NPfIT has been rolled out has caused problems for buyers and suppliers.
Drewer concluded that although NPfIT's communication with suppliers has improved, further clarity is still required.
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