Plans to scale back on the £12bn NHS IT system is being described as a “massive U-turn” by some Tories.
Chancellor Alistair Darling made the announcement during Wednesdays Pre-Budget Report.
In an effort to slash public spending to get borrowing back under control, certain sections of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) will be shelved. The move may save hundreds of millions but Mr Darling admitted it was only a fraction of total spending cuts needed
The NPfIT programme has been plagued by delays and been heavily criticised by opposition parties.
Mr Darling is targeting the programme as he deems it inessential to the NHS frontline, a move which will see savings of several hundred millions of pounds.
The chancellor, under pressure to flesh out plans for public spending cuts, told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1: “I do think it is necessary for me on Wednesday to indicate where we are going to cut spending or where we’re not going to spend as much as we were.”
“For example, the NHS had a quite expensive IT system that, frankly, isn’t essential to the front line. It’s something that I think we don’t need to go ahead with just now.”
The NPfIT would computerise medical records in a central database and link up more than 30,000 GPs to nearly 300 hospitals.
It would provide an online booking system, a centralised medical records system, e-prescriptions and fast computer network links between NHS organisations.