A public sector IT project has been branded an "expensive cliché" by a government spending watchdog after at least £5.5m has been wasted on it so far.
The General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) is an IT system designed to allow data to be extracted from all GP practices in England. It was initially meant to cost £14m but this rocketed to £40m during the planning stages, the Public Accounts Committee said.
At least £5.5m has been wasted on the deal in write-offs and costs linked with delays, it added.
So far, the GPES has managed to provide data to just one customer – NHS England – and even then, the data was received four years later than planned.
"The project has been significantly delayed and many customers have yet to receive data," a National Audit Office report said. "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 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 need for the service remains and further public expenditure is needed to improve GPES or replace it."
PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier had some harsh words for the project, which she branded a failure.
"Failed government IT projects have long been an expensive cliché and, sadly for the taxpayer and service user, this is no exception," she said. "While taxpayers are left picking up the tab for this failure, customers who could benefit, such as research and clinical audit organisations, are waiting around for the system to deliver what they need to improve our health service."
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