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Fujitsu bows out of British healthcare database

LONDON, U.K. – Plans for a national database containing all patient records hit further trouble after one of the main contractors pulled out. Negotiations between the Department for Heath and Japanese computer giant Fujitsu broke down before the first scheduled roll-out of the system in southern England.

The project will create a single electronic records system for patients, but has been dogged by delays and is already four years late, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Fujitsu was one of three main suppliers of the system and had held a contract worth £895m for the south of England, from Kent to Cornwall.

The company said it had withdrawn from negotiations, as it did not feel there was any prospect of an acceptable conclusion.

Stephen O’Brien, a shadow health minister, said: “The government’s attempts to ram through a top-down, centralized, one-size-fits-all central NHS computer system have come crashing down around their ears.”

Several contractors involved in the deal are said to have complained that the government has been inflexible in specifications, in order to keep costs within budget.

During re-negotiations, contractors signed deals ensuring they would only be paid when services were delivered and working.

Recent breaches in security across several Government departments, and in the NHS, have led many doctors to doubt whether putting all patients’ details in a national database is a sensible idea at all.

Nine out of 10 doctors said they have no confidence in the Government’s ability to keep patients’ electronic medical records safe. The overwhelming majority of the 219 who responded to a British Medical Association survey said they did not feel they were in a position to assure patients that their data would be protected.

In December the government admitted that the medical records of hundreds of thousands of patients had gone missing from nine NHS trusts.