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NHS IT programme to be ‘dismantled’

23 September 2011

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The dismantling of the current NHS IT programme is to be accelerated following a recommendation that “it is not fit” to provide the modern services required.

A review by the Cabinet Office’s Major Projects Authority (MPA) reported that while the programme has offered “substantial achievements”, it “has not and cannot” deliver to its original intent.

Such achievements accounted for two-thirds of the £6.4bn spent so far, said the review. They include, NHSmail and the ‘choose and book’ system.

The MPA deemed the programme, which was created in 2002 under the last government, as “no longer appropriate”. It said under a ‘modernised NHS’ there is no need for a centralised to make decisions on behalf of local organisations.

“The National Programme for IT achieved much in terms of infrastructure and this will be maintained, along with national applications, such as the Summary Care Record and Electronic Prescriptions Service, which are crucial to improving patient safety and efficiency,” said a statement from the Department of Health. 

“But we need to move on from a top down approach and instead provide information systems driven by local decision-making.”

The Department of Health has announced it is to work together with Intellect, the trade association for the ICT sector, to deliver interoperable systems on a local level.

Intellect is urging the government to “urgently” focus on

enabling and stimulating the market to deliver interoperable systems to maximise the return on existing  and future investment in IT.

It claims this position should be supported by a central focus on clinical information sharing in the NHS Information Strategy.

“Interoperability offers a golden opportunity for NHS information systems to deliver many of the benefits once promised by National Programme for IT but at a fraction of the cost,” said Jon Lindberg, Intellect’s healthcare programme manager.

“The NHS market is already moving beyond the programme, but to achieve a Connect All strategy alongside local decision-making we need joined-up thinking.”

Is the government right to scrap the current national Programme for IT? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“Yes it was never going to work and was ill advised they were warned but carried on regardless. Individualism guarantees technical and worthwhile change and this was taken away. IT is an ongoing process and the last government would have made it stagnate. Like most of the last government’s hairbrained schemes the money will never be recovered unfortunately! If they get in again pass the incinerator in advance!” – Carrie, Calderdale

“No – we should all be using the same systems” – Julie Rowlinson, Derby

“Yes: The people who instigated this implemented against advice from those who knew about these systems” – Christine Stacey, London

“Some of it. The areas that work well e.g. GP2GP should be expanded to make sure that all practices are able to send and receive notes via electronic means for patients transferring to other surgeries. The summary care record should be scrapped as it is insecure, unpopular (with those who understand it) and incomplete. In addition, there are alternative methods for patients to be able to access their records themselves anywhere in the world with an internet access – and it’s free! The vast amounts of money spent have not been totally wasted but I wouldn’t spend my own money this way!” – Name and address withheld