NHS patient records scheme 'not achieving benefits'

A government-commissioned report into a key element of the NHS IT programme is expected to be highly critical of the Summary Care Records project, Computer Weekly has learned.

A government-commissioned report into a key element of the NHS IT programme is expected to be highly critical of the Summary Care Records (SCR) project, Computer Weekly has learned.

The report by University College London is due out on Thursday and was intended to examine progress on the benefits of SCR and Healthspace - an NHS website where patients can manage their own electronic records.

SCR is central to the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and is the means by which health service practitioners are meant to be able to access electronic patient records from any location.

But a draft of the report, seen by Computer Weekly blogger Tony Collins, concludes that: "Overall the evidence that the SCR programme had so far achieved the benefits set out was limited."

The report contains further criticisms of the SCR project, including the following comments:

"Some costly changes to contracts with IT suppliers were necessary to incorporate requirements that had not been fully anticipated at the outset of the programme," it says.

"BT considered this contract to be high-risk. Some BT staff felt that the original specification had been set in board-level meetings where insufficient attention had been paid to the perspective of front-line users."

And for Healthspace: "There was no evidence to date of improved personalisation of care", and it highlights that fewer people registered for the service than had been expected.

The draft report also questions the whole concept of national IT systems for the NHS: "Nationally shared information systems, though expected to bring increased clarity, transparency and trust, may actually lead to confusion, paradox, and loss of trust," it says.

The report concludes: "As the NHS reflects on an uncertain future, we believe that the fortunes of these programmes will continue to depend on efforts to bridge the deep cultural and institutional divides which have so far characterised the NPfIT."

Prior to the General Election, the Department of Health described the report as "a draft based on a small sample of information". This was despite the commissioning of the report from UCL costing taxpayers more than £700,000 for two years of analysis of SCR.

Click here to read more excerpts from the draft UCL report and Tony Collins' expert analysis of its findings >>

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