NHS plans UK's biggest IT project

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NHS plans UK's biggest IT project

James Rogers
Papers released by the Department of Health, which were due to be unveiled this week, outline the health service's future technology strategy in what will be the UK's largest ever IT project

The long-awaited national IT strategy, Delivering 21st-Century IT Support for the NHS, is a massive overhaul of IT within the health service which, with more than a million employees, is the UK's largest employer.

Although implementation of the strategy is not scheduled to start until April 2003 officials have detailed some of the long-term targets that have been laid as foundations for it.

By March 2003 the department expects that the health service will have connected all NHS clinical and management staff to the NHS Network to enable e-mail, directory services and Web browsing. This deadline will also be applied to the electronic transfer of all biochemistry, haematology and microbiology test results.
Long-term objectives of the strategy include broadband access to all NHS clinicians and support staff by December 2005, as well as implementation of domain-to-domain encryption.

A national appointment bookings service is expected to be implemented by December 2007, as will electronic patient records systems in all primary care trusts and hospitals. The new strategy is, however, dependent on additional funding from this year's spending review.

The Government has a poor record on meeting NHS IT targets. In 1998 it promised to connect all computerised GP surgeries to the NHS Network by 2000 - a deadline that was later abandoned.

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