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Review of NHS could impact IT

Tony Collins

The new health secretary has announced a review of the NHS that could affect the direction and funding of the £12.4bn National Programme for IT at a time of cost pressures.

Alan Johnson today announced an independent review of the NHS, which will help inform the Treasury when it sets the funding for the health service as part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

The review will be led by practicing surgeon Sir Ara Darzi, and it will not be "controlled from above", said Johnson. He added that one aim of the review was to ensure the NHS is "clinically led, patient-centered and locally accountable". It will draw on the views of NHS staff, patients and the public.

It will look among other things at ensuring that "clinical decision-making is at the heart of the future of the NHS and the pattern of service delivery". Johnson also emphasised that money spent on the health service needed to be invested wisely.

This review could be an opportunity for the government to revisit the £12.4bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT].

Many in the NHS want NHS trusts to have more discretion over what they buy, provided it meets national standards. If this happens as a result of the review, it is unclear how the programme’s main suppliers, the so-called Local Service Providers, would make enough money from their NPfIT contracts to justify the investments they have made in national systems.

Johnson told the House of Commons that the review will also establish a "vision for the next decade of the health service, which is based less on central direction and more on patient control, choice and local accountability."

He said: "Professor Darzi will complete an initial assessment in three months’ time to inform the Comprehensive Spending Review and produce his full report in the New Year.

"This review will not succeed if it is controlled from above. The best of the NHS sits not at the top of the organisation but in the millions of complex, diverse relationships, which exist across the country between dedicated devoted professionals and their patients.

"The success of the review will depend on gaining access to these relationships and stimulating a range of lively, local, provocative debates. The scale of our discussions with staff, patients and the public will be unprecedented."

Alan Johnson: a good choice as political head of the NHS's National Programme for IT >>

NHS: open letter to Gordon Brown >>

Johnson seeks to soothe NHS anger >>

Time for the NHS to take stock >>

Comment on this article: computer.weekly@rbi.co.uk


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