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NHS chief spent IT funds on other areas

Tony Collins
Richard Gibbs, as head of a Surrey health authority who led an influential NHS technology forum, diverted half of the money set aside for IT into meeting other "higher" political priorities, it emerged last week.

In 2000 Gibbs, who was chief executive of Kingston & Richmond Health Authority for 12 years until April this year, received as part of his authority's financial allocation a sum to be put aside for IT. But Gibbs told a conference at the Royal College of Surgeons last week that he was "terribly torn" because of pressures to meet other non-IT targets. So he diverted about half of the IT allocation to meet other objectives.

His decision came after the Government had announced a major new IT investment strategy for the NHS of at least £1bn.

Gibbs told the Intellect conference of IT suppliers last week that his authority's annual financial allocation had a sum "hypothecated" for IT which meant it was not to be spent on anything else. But he said that chief executives in other authorities had also diverted IT cash. "I am as guilty as the others. I was terribly torn."

At the time Gibbs chaired a national NHS chief executives' information forum. "As the chairman of the IT forum, surely among all chief executives, I should have protected the money for IT? But I did not. I only protected half of it. The problem is that we were under so much pressure to deliver lots of other targets, like waiting list targets, which quite clearly carried a higher political imperative."

He said Kingston & Richmond had been relatively lucky - in many other authorities 75% of the IT allocation had been re-directed.

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