MPs have slammed the "saga" of the NHS National Programme for IT as "one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector."

The taxpayer is continuing to pay the price for the “ill-fated” National Programme which, although officially dismantled, continues in the form of separate component programmes which are still racking up big costs, according to Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk and a member of the Commons’ Committee of Public Accounts.

And we still don’t know what the full cost of the National Programme will be, he added, speaking as the Committee published its latest report on the current position with the Programme.

Launched in 2002, the NHS National Programme for IT was designed to reform the way that the NHS in England uses information. While some parts of the programme were delivered successfully, other important elements encountered significant difficulties. In particular, there were delays in developing and deploying the detailed care records systems.

In September 2011, the government announced that it would dismantle the Programme but keep the component parts in place with separate management and accountability structures. This has now taken place.

But the public purse is continuing to pay the price for failures by the Department of Health and its contractors, says the MPs’ report. The original contracts with CSC totalled £3.1 billion for setting-up the Lorenzo care records system in Trusts in the North, Midlands and East. Despite CSC’s poor performance, the Department is in a weak position to renegotiate contracts because it could not meet the contractual obligation to make enough Trusts available to take the system.

“We still don’t know what the full cost of the National Programme will be,” said Mr Bacon. ”The Department’s latest estimate of £9.8 billion leaves out the future costs of Lorenzo or the potential large future costs arising from the Department’s termination of Fujitsu’s contract for care records systems in the South of England.”

Also, the benefits flowing from the Programme to date are “extremely disappointing. The Department estimates £3.7 billion of benefits to March 2012, just half of the costs incurred,” said Mr Bacon.

Finally, he said, given this “sorry history,” that "it is very hard to believe that the paperless NHS, towards which the Department is working, has much chance of being achieved by the target date of 2018."