BCS report sparks change in the NHS IT programme

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BCS report sparks change in the NHS IT programme

Lindsay Clark

Connecting for Health, the government agency that runs the £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS, is considering a report from the British Computer Society that recommends putting on hold the development of the data spine of 50 million personal health records.

The data spine is the cornerstone of the national programme.

The report, The Way Forward for NHS Health Informatics, says the BCS wants the programme to succeed and believes it could benefit patient care. However, the report sets out key concerns about the approach being taken.

Connecting for Health said it is giving the recommendations full consideration and is already acting on some of them.

"The BCS is a respected body that we have worked with since the inception of the national programme. We note the report and that it contains a number of positive themes.

"The NPfIT Local Ownership programme, which has been considering the direction of the national programme in light of the National Audit Office report of June 2006, addresses a number of the points raised by the BCS," said a spokesman.

One of the most radical changes the BCS recommends is to put work on the national spine for the care records service on the back burner. This is a core part of the NPfIT and has been designed to hold the personal details of 50 million patients in England.

The BCS says in its report that the programme should work locally before the NPfIT builds a national spine. "The first task must be to agree the purpose of the NHS care records system, and then to decide what role (if any) a spine patient record should play. Any successful nationwide implementation will ultimately only be possible when [a focus on local implementation] has been achieved."

The report also points to a funding shortfall, since delays to implementation mean some planned roll-outs have missed their funding window.

"Experience also tells us that implementation costs are several times more than procurement, and that the benefits are not realised immediately," it says.

"Where are the funds for local business change? We are aware of some financial support from NHS Connecting for Health to the NHS, but this was typically limited to two years and, in some cases, the funding stopped in March 2006."

Click to read the full BCS report

Computer Weekly's NHS coverage

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