GPES is an IT system designed to allow NHS organisations to extract data from all GP computer systems in England in order to monitor quality, plan and pay for health services and help medical research.
According to the NAO, the programme has been significantly delayed and many customers have yet to receive data, despite the original business case claiming the service would start in 2009-10.
Instead, it took until April 2014 for the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) to prove the first GPES extract data to a customer.
During the investigation, the NAO says it found mistakes in the original procurement and contract management, which contributed to loss of public funds through asset write-offs and settlements with suppliers.
The GPES programme was expected to cost £14m originally but has since jumped to £40m during the planning and procurement stage.
Further cost increases were found to have been smaller, but at least £5.5m have been written off alongside delay costs and because the need for the service remains, further public expenditure will be required to improve GPES or replace.
So far, just one customer, NHS England, has received data from GPES and the NAO has claimed that it is unlikely that the project in its current form can provide the NHS-wide service planned.
The Auditor also says that the time needed to design a new type of extract and the restrictions in the contracts severely limits HSCIC’s ability to provide data to those who request it.
According to HSCIC, its staff are taking every possible step to ensure that the needed improvements happen as swiftly as possible.
“It is clear the GPES procurement and design stage was not good enough, regardless of the intent of predecessor bodies,” claimed a statement on the Centre’s website.
“The HSCIC is equally clear that upon our creation we took full responsibility for delivering a data extraction service that is operationally and financially sufficient.
“We are maximising the working aspects of GPES and replacing those parts that do not work. Our focus is on developing a suitable service that meets the needs of the NHS and patients,” it added.
Steps HSCIC is already in the process of taking include the installation of an entirely new senior team of technical experts to run the programme and working closely with suppliers to ensure the project runs at full capacity.