Opportunity for clarity


Opportunity for clarity

We are delighted that the House of Commons Health Committee is going to hold an inquiry into the NHS's £12.4bn National Programme for IT. We have campaigned hard for an inquiry, as have 23 leading academics who wrote an open letter to the committee.

At first the committee's members seemed none too enthusiastic about the idea of an inquiry. They were put off a little by the programme's complexity.

Since then Computer Weekly has provided information to some of the members on the concerns at trust board level about the way things are going. Now the committee members have realised that they can see the programme from the perspective of doctors and nurses and if the scheme is too difficult for clinicians to understand, then there is something fundamentally wrong with it.

Senior IT executives in trusts who have not been able to express opinions publicly will have the opportunity to write to the committee, requesting anonymity, and raising questions they think MPs should ask. The committee will also be taking in papers from specialists.

The inquiry will provide a chance for officials to say that the NHS has moved on since the programme was first announced, and concede that it needs to change. The committee could then be a stage to announce changes.

We hope that MPs will consider the project's strengths and weaknesses with an open mind, and not be critical or defensive according to party alignments.

This is also a chance for officials and ministers to explain how patients will benefit from the enormous public investment in this project, and what lessons have been learned so far. They will, we hope, answer questions clearly and openly - for clarity and openness have been largely missing so far.

MPs will hold inquiry into £12bn NHS IT plan

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This was first published in November 2006


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