Editorial for the print edition of Computer Weekly
At last some good news on the £12.7bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT], thanks largely to the NHS CIO Christine Connelly.
True, the good news is set against a landscape of devastation. Last week we learned that the 200k-a year head of NPfIT delivery Martin Bellamy is leaving the Department of Health, less than a year after he was expensively recruited.
And 31 Gateway reviews on the NPfIT, which have now been published, make it clear that the NPfIT was never going to work as planned. The reviews told of a “Grand Vision” which couldn’t be translated into a practical design that would benefit patients.
Several of those reviews gave a “red” traffic light status to parts of the NPfIT, though it could have been a purple light for all the Department of Health noticed. The Grand Vision had to be implemented, however hazy it was.
Now reality has intervened and the Department of Health is trying, understandably, to distance itself from the NPfIT: officials want to rename NHS Connecting for Health which has been so closely associated with the programme.
The good news is that the NHS CIO Christine Connelly is taking a pragmatic view. Instead of being overly protective of a failing programme, blowing bubbles of statistics to imply it’s a success, she has initiated a competition to appoint a group of suppliers, so that NHS Trusts will be able to choose from a small range of centrally-funded patient administration systems.
No longer will the NPfIT be about a Grand Vision – vapourware in other words. Trusts, we hope, will be able to buy systems that are known to work.
In the past the approach has been to shoehorn new systems into trusts as soon as possible and then try to make them fit in. This has harmed more patients than it has helped.
We don’t think Christine Connelly will allow this to happen again. She seems ready to adapt to the difficulties facing the NHS, rather than try and conform to an ideology.
Seven years into the NPfIT, it’s time for a change, a shunning of the well-intentioned, visionary but completely unrealistic plans which date back to early 2002. The focus now should be on what works.
NHS CIO email announces departure of NPfIT head -Computer Weekly
16 key points in Gateway reviews on NPfIT – IT Projects blog
NPfIT ‘failed’ nine Gateway reviews – Smarthealthcare.com