The British Computer Society (BCS) has blasted the “lack of commitment from NHS management at all levels” over healthcare IT, which it says has “seriously impeded progress in implementing informatics support for patient care”.
The comments came in a press statement today (29 July 2008) in which the BCS welcomed the Department of Health’s proposal to put “credible, capable” information officers at PCT and SHA board levels, contained in the recent Health Informatics Review report.
The BCS says this would be “a major step forward in persuading NHS management buy in to health informatics. This is important following the lack of commitment from NHS management at all levels.”
Following consultation with members of its Health Informatics Forum, the BCS has applauded much of the content and proposals of the Health Informatics Review.
In particular, it is felt that getting informatics involvement at an early stage of policy development will help to keep progress moving forwards with less of the “feature creep”, which it says “has bedevilled implementation.”
Glyn Hayes of the BCS Health Informatics Forum said: “The new NHS drive towards IT professionalism is to be applauded. The further development of our profession within the NHS will improve planning, design, development, delivery and ongoing use of systems.
“It is essential that we move health informatics staff out of the doldrums into the mainstream and alongside other professions, which have an impact on patient care.
The BCS believes the review to be well founded on consultations with a wide range of stakeholders. However, it noted the absence of consultation beyond local service providers and the Office of the Information Commissioner – regarding confidentiality of patient data – and Academic Group of 23.
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“Practice managers have little control over the IT implementation. The bigger problem is that many staff at PCT level and above do not have the skill set to determine what is good or bad IT, and therefore get the wool pulled over their eyes by providers of various IT systems. The NHS Mail system is a good example – basically Microsoft Hotmail for the NHS, which is an incredibly poor product. But as usual, NHS IT staff are swept along by this process of change, little realising that this is nothing more than the “emperor’s new clothes”. Until there is a critical mass of NHS staff with the proper IT skills, able to sort the good from the duff ideas, delays in IT rollouts will continue. This is the discussion which needs to be had, but who will instigate it? For NHS IT staff to start such a discussion would be tantamount to an admission of failure so far” – Name and address withheld
“IT is a specialist area over which we have little control; it is something that is handed down from on high. Rarely does it deliver what is promised despite the optimism at the outset. If a system comes along that works from the start, is clearly a benefit to patients or improves the way in which we work I’m all for it. We have implemented GP2GP, Choose and Book, EPS and a new email system in the last couple of years. That is on top of the daily grind. Perhaps this report is another example of the ‘my project is the most important’ pressure coming from a vested interest group” – Name and address withheld