The highly-troubled NHS National Programme for IT cost over £1 billion last year alone, according to newly released government figures.
As the government announces tough steps on the economy, including hundreds of thousands of job cuts to help tackle Britain’s £155 billion deficit, it slipped out in a parliamentary written answer that it spent as much as £1.06 billion in only a twelve-month period on the NHS IT scheme. It remains unclear how jobs on the programme will be affected by the new government's plans.

Under the programme, at latest expectations over four years late and forecast to cost £12.7 billion in total, controversial electronic patient records are being rolled out across England. Until May last year, when doctors’ association the BMA forced a slow down, there was an accelerated rollout in an attempt to improve usage rates. But an official report published last month concluded that patient records have delivered almost no benefits to doctors or patients.

The coalition parties had pledged to scrap centralised patient records, on the grounds of cost and privacy, before the election. Three weeks ago, health minister Simon Burns said Summary Care Records will remain, but the government is undecided on patient consent and access models.

The rollout of hospital administration systems iSoft Lorenzo and Cerner Millennium is the other key area thought to be making up the costs. Many of the early rollouts have been highly-troubled, with CSC having struggled to meet deadlines for a key system at Morecambe Bay and early BT rollouts experiencing fundamental technical difficulties.

Yesterday, health minister Simon Burns said in a parliamentary written answer that the government spent £1.06 billion on the programme in the 2009 financial year, including £528 million of revenue expenditure and £535 million of capital expenditure.

In the 2010 financial year, the government spent a further £213 million with CSC. It had not provided a figure for spending with BT at the time of writing, but it is expected to be a larger amount because payment is made on delivery and BT switched on systems in more acute trusts during the period.

Aside from the National Programme, NHS trusts spent a further £915 million on IT during the year, and primary care trusts spent £682 million. The money was spent on software licences and a range of other systems.