News / Review raises doubts over major health projects

20 September 2022 Seamus Ward

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PORTRAIT_news_projects reportThe report, by the government’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), evaluates a project’s likelihood of achieving its objectives on time and to budget.

Though the position on the programme to build 48 new hospitals by the end of the decade has improved, there are major issues. The IPA rated the programme amber after a red/amber rating last year (successful delivery in doubt).

The amber rating means successful delivery appears feasible, but significant issues require management attention. The category definition adds that issues appear resolvable and, if addressed promptly, should not present a cost or schedule overrun.

The assessment came after an NHS Providers survey of trusts involved in the new hospital programme warned that delays were pushing up costs. Half of trust leaders doubt they have enough funding to deliver their projects; almost two-fifths said schemes were behind schedule. Almost all trusts called on the government to confirm the funding for the programme beyond the current spending review period.

Interim chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said: ‘Trust leaders are deeply frustrated the benefits they expected to be able to deliver for patients and their communities are increasingly in doubt.’

The National Audit Office is to carry out a value-for-money review of the programme.

The assessment of the integrated single financial environment (ISFE) procurement was also amber, but it was red last year (successful delivery appears unachievable). The ISFE is a managed service that includes a financial and accounting system.

Around two years ago, the NHS in England explored the feasibility of procuring a combined ISFE and HR/payroll system, but this has been dropped in favour of separate procurements.

In August, the NHS Business Services Authority tendered for a £1.7bn workforce system including payroll, learning, talent management, total reward statements and workforce reporting. It is expected the workforce system will be implemented in August 2024.

The ISFE contract, provided by NHS Shared Business Services, was due to end in 2021 but was extended to 31 March 2024 to give time to procure a replacement.