The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, has confirmed during a TV interview with Andrew Marr on BBC1 that he will be cancelling elements of the NHS IT Programme. These cut backs are due to be confirmed in the Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report today. However, Mr Darling did state that, despite cutbacks, there will still be opportunities for IT contractors within the healthcare sector.

The news of these cuts comes after heightened criticism by opposition parties of the increased budget for the National Programme for IT. This currently stands at £12 billion.

The original aim of the programme when it was launched in 2000 was to transform and modernise NHS IT systems. The government highlighted a need for a comprehensive update of all IT systems across the healthcare sector. The Health Secretary yesterday told the House of Commons that IT within the NHS is a “key part of delivering modern, safe, joined-up healthcare.”

He continued: “We have no intention whatsoever of canceling the programme overall, not least because it is already making the NHS safer, more efficient and more convenient for patients.”

The programme has been faced with many issues from the start, including escalating costs, work running late, a lack of support from healthcare staff and difficulties with suppliers. There has also been much controversy regarding the national health record which seems no closer to fulfillment. Many critics of the scheme have argued that national records are unnecessary.

Exactly what opportunities continue to exist for contractors in this sector remains to be seen, but should be clearer following today’s Pre-Budget Report

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