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Tories signal NHS National Programme will be key election issue by commissioning review

Antony Savvas

The Conservative Party has commissioned a board member of the British Computer Society to conduct an independent review of the NHS National Programme for IT.

Some analysts have said the project's expenditure and late delivery will become a major issue in the forthcoming election.

The review will be chaired by Glyn Hayes, former chair of the British Computer Society (BCS) Health Informatics Forum. The review will report back to Conservative shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien.

Both Glyn Hayes and the BCS have stressed the review will be independent. The BCS remained apolitical, they said.

The evidence for the review will be collected speedily, with all written evidence having to be submitted by the end of September this year.

There will be oral hearings conducted in October and November.

It is expected a first draft of the report will be produced in December, and the final report is set to be published by the end of March 2009 - the expected election year.

In an industry letter inviting submissions, Dr Hayes said electronic patient records, a key plank of the National Programme for IT, have a central role to play in the NHS.

He said: "In particular, we are aware of the benefits to be gained from patient-centred records. We believe that such records, appropriately designed, properly implemented, and made available to those providing health and, where feasible, social care, would enable the improvement and efficient management of patient and service user outcomes."

The members of the review group are: Gail Beer, independent consultant; Iain Carpenter, clinical lead on record standards, Health Informatics Unit, Royal College of Physicians; Ian Shepherd, chartered IT professional; and Professor John Williams, director, Health Informatics Unit, Royal College of Physicians.

All interested parties can submit written evidence to: evidence@healthitpolicyreview.info

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