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Tories claim Labour/NHS IT deal fixing

The Conservative Party have claimed that the government are trying to fix a deal for its £12.7bn NHS IT programme ahead of the next general election

The Conservative Party have raised claims that the government are trying to fix a deal for its £12.7bn NHS IT programme ahead of the next general election.

The claims come from Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien who told an upcoming edition of BBC's File on 4 that the government are attempting to complete contracts within the next four weeks for its scheme to make patient records digitally available to every surgery and hospital in England. The Tories say this will effectively 'tie the hands' of any incoming government, forcing whichever party wins the next election to honour the deal.

Both the Tories and Liberal Democrats have criticised the current plans, with both parties' policies seeking to change or dismantle the programme which is nine years behind schedule, with a current scheduled completion date of 2015, and already threatened with spending cuts by chancellor Alistair Darling.

Stephen O'Brien told the BBC "We are urging the government not to go down that route [of resetting the contracts] because we wouldn't want any further contractual arrangements to be committed. We have heard that there is a process, which is intended to be completed by the end of March, which would have the effect of potentially tying a future government's hands more rigidly than they would already be under the current contracts."

Responding to the claims, health minister Mike O'Brien told the BBC there were no unusual circumstances about the deal, and that cancelling negotiations now would be absurd.

"It may well be this government [Labour] and in that case what we want to do is make sure we get these savings," he told the BBC. "I'm certainly not going to get into a situation where because we're approaching a general election at some day soon, the whole of government stops and we can't make any contracts with suppliers of key NHS equipment. That would be complete nonsense."

File on 4 is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 2 March 2010, at 2000 GMT, and repeated Sunday, 7 March, at 1700 GMT.

2nd March 2010

From: Healthcare

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