The Conservative opposition have accused the government of trying to renegotiate its contracts on the £12.7bn NHS IT programme to make it difficult for a future government to fundamentally alter the scheme.
Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien will tell BBC’s File on 4 tonight that ministers are anxious to get a memorandum of understanding in place by the end of March after negotiations with BT and CSC to “reset” the contracts have dragged on.
"We are urging the government not to go down that route because we wouldn't want any further contractual arrangements to be committed," O'Brien will tell the programme.
The Tories last year pledged to scrap the central repository of care records – the heart of the scheme.
In December Alistair Darling, the chancellor said the NPfIT was not part of the NHS front line, which he has pledged to protect from spending cuts. Speaking days before his pre-Budget report, the chancellor told the BBC that the £12.7 billion programme was “something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now”.
The comments created a public relations frenzy in Whitehall, as government officials scrambled to tell the press that the chancellor “mis-spoke”, and that what he meant was that ministers were considering curtailing some elements of the programme.
Dismissing today’s Tory claims, health minister Mike O'Brien said the contract reset was about agreeing those £600 million cuts and that it was "nonsense" to expect the minsters to suspend negotiations ahead of an election.
"We are certainly looking for a memorandum of understanding by the end of March if we can get that," he told Radio 4’s Today programme.