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Auditor warns of financial risks for NHS 24



Audit Scotland highlights continued delays in implementation of new IT system for online healthcare support

A series of failings have affected the delivery of IT to support NHS24, Scotland’s online and telephone health advice service, prompting the national auditor to warn of the risk of more financial problems to come.

Audit Scotland has identified the problems in its newly published 2014-15 Audit of NHS 24, which comes just a year after the previous report and highlights the late implementation of the Future Programme IT contract.

In the conclusion, the auditor says that the delay in implementing a new system to support the programme has created additional costs and risks to the organisation meeting its financial targets. Its financial plan assumes that the first phase of the system will be operational this month and a second phase concluded by the end of March next year; but implementation was ongoing at the time the report was signed off.

Subsequently, NHS 24 would incur extra costs of about £450,000 per month, and if the implementation is not successful costs could rise further.

Challenging targets

“NHS 24 have factored the costs involved in the ongoing implementation of the Future Programme into their financial plans. However, given the scale of the challenge, the delivery of financial targets will be very challenging and will largely depend on the achievement of efficiency savings,” the report says.

This comes on top of the total costs of the programme rising by 55% from the original estimate to £117.4 million since the procurement in 2011.

Future Programme was originally scheduled to go live in June 2013, but has been plagued by failures to meet performance measures around patient safety. Last year NHS 24 began legal action against one of the suppliers, Capgemini, but this was dropped following an agreement on outstanding issues in June of this year.

The report says there have been weaknesses in the management of the contract, such as flawed procurement and preparation, unrealistic timescales, poor programme definition, and the use of team that lacked the appropriate experience.


In response to the report, the organisation issued a statement saying: “The new system will be in place by the end of October. It will enable us to continue to provide high quality services, which are even more effective, efficient and safer for patients.

"To date our 111 service has taken more than 2 million calls and patient satisfaction rates are high, with rates of referral to other parts of the health service remaining consistent and appropriate. 

"The new system provides a state of the art technology platform. It will not only enable NHS 24 to continue to deliver improved patient-centred services during the out of hours period, but will allow for the development of new ways of offering health and care to people across Scotland well into the future. It provides a key asset to NHSScotland offering the capability on which new and improved services will be developed."

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