A BCS report has linked the problems facing the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to a pressing need to realign the programme via the English strategic health authority and trust structure.
The BCS believes this is a major reason why so many NHS staff view informatics, and particularly the NPfIT, as having little relevance rather than as a key enabler of business change.
According to the BCS Health Informatics Forum strategic panel, the NPfIT can make a massive contribution to safer and more appropriate patient care. The panel agrees with the Wanless Report (an independent review of long-term resource requirements for the NHS) that 4% of NHS turnover should be spent on business-led informatics.
Glyn Hayes, chairman of the Health Informatics Forum strategic panel, said, "One of the fundamental goals must be to support the diverse business processes that recognise local constraints and individual patients' values, and focus on delivery and implementation at trust level.
"Instead of the current monolithic systems intended to meet most of the needs of users in a local health community, we need a range and choice of more innovative and agile solutions."
The key recommendations of the BCS report include:
- The provision of a business context for the NPfIT at national and local level
- A focus on local implementations at trust and provider unit level
- An emphasis on standards to enable systems to interoperate
- An evolutionary strategy, building on what currently works.
- Adoption of a truly patient-centred approach at local health community level
- Resolution of issues about the sharing of electronic patient data
- Transformation of the NPfIT into an open partnership with NHS management, users, the informatics community, suppliers, patients and their carers
- The clinical professions, NHS management and informaticians should collaborate to provide clear and comprehensive guidance for all sectors on data management.
Hayes said, "IT enables change, it is sometimes a catalyst for change, but it is not an end in itself. This misconception has been a prime cause of large-scale IT project failure since computers first became commonplace.
"The government has committed significant resources for NHS informatics but relatively little has yet been spent and less still is visible in front-line informatics. We wish to see this commitment play its proper and vital role in the new NHS."