Defending the NHS's National Programme for IT?

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Connecting for Health, which runs the National Programme for IT, has again referred to its “evidence base” as a response to bad news about the NHS’s National Programme for IT.

This evidence base contains information that justifies the aims of the NPfIT. It does not answer specific questions about whether the programme can be a success without the enthusiastic support of most doctors and nurses.

CfH’s reaction to the bad news raises the question, once more, of whether you can credibly defend specific difficulties on a large and troubled IT-based project by arguing that there is support for its aims.


CfH cited its evidence base to E-Health Insider which reported on the results of a survey which was commissioned by The Times and carried out by Doctors.net. The survey of more than 3,000 doctors found that only 9% expressed optimism about the potential of the NPfIT to change the NHS and 91% disagreed with them. Only a small minority thought the programme should be abandoned at this stage.

Support for a project’s aims does not mean there is support for the project. It’s probable that many people would if asked support a National Programme for the Improvement of Road Safety, If the national implementation did not go well, caused disruption in places, led to a further proliferation of cameras, and potentially compromised safety in some spots, drivers would lose faith in the national programme even if they agreed with its aims and objectives.

Whether or not the NPfIT existed, IT executives in the NHS, doctors, patients and others would support the principle that clinicians should have ready access to a reliable electronic health records that patients can check for accuracy.

There are a number of ways to achieve this. The NPfIT is one way. Other countries are doing it differently. It is therefore possible to support the idea of a readily-available and reliable electronic record without necessarily supporting the NPfIT.

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