Department of Health opens up data

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Department of Health opens up data

Kathleen Hall

The Department of Health (DH) has outlined a series of initiatives to support trusts in procuring more IT at a local level, which include making more information available to practitioners and developers.

The initiatives, which involve the use of open data, a supplier database to evaluate services, and the broadening of the healthcare market to include more SMEs, come ahead of the department's Information Revolution report, which has been delayed until after March next year.

As part of a joint venture with informatics eHealth Insider, the department has listed the key clinical and administrative systems in use across all trusts and PCTs on the health magazine's website, as well as details of desktops and mobile devices used by individual NHS organisations. All listings will be available to NHS local commissioners and subject to a ratings system.

Other key aspects include the publication of datasets on the Connecting for Health website and data.gov.uk to enable third parties to develop things such as smartphone apps. The DH is also working with the Government Procurement Service on a pan-government supplier information database to evaluate and procure supplier systems.

Intellect is working with the department to broaden the supplier healthcare IT market. The trade organisation for IT suppliers said it was looking at ways trusts could procure electronic records outside the National Programme for IT.

Katie Davis, managing director of informatics at DH, said: "By making our own core information on our use of IT available for others to add their own expert insight and value, we have made a major step forward in providing the necessary information, for free, to all NHS customers. Furthermore, we hope that this transparency will send a clear signal to the supplier community that the NHS IT market is open for business."

John Higgins, director general at Intellect, said the key to making the new model work was by engaging the customer and supply side in a more collaborative way.

However, GPs have said the DH should not devolve its healthcare IT strategy entirely. Chaand Nagpaul, a GP and member of the British Medical Association's working party, said some national control over the procurement of IT services should be retained.

"High-level IT for GPs needs to have national specifications and standards. We will be worried if IT moves too far down the local route. There needs to be a balance and dialogue to define a meaningful approach that combines national responsibility with local implementation," he told Computer Weekly recently.


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