When Labour commissioned a genuinely independent report on what was needed to put right a project to deliver software for a new air traffic control centre at Swanwick, it did so largely because of the tenacity of the House of Commons’ Transport Committee and its remarkable chair Gwyneth Dunwoody. It’s a pity there is no Gwyneth Dunwoody in the field of health.
One MP on the Public Accounts Committee says that ministers oppose a genuinely independent review of the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT] because they don’t want solid facts to come into the public domain which would undermine their presentation of the programme as a qualified success. “It’s really about presentation,” said the MP, “You want to be able to say something’s a success without fear of credible contradiction.”
So much for the government of Gordon Brown distancing itself from spin. More seriously, the victims of the NPfIT spin are patients. We’ve said for years that there’s an urgent need for reliable electronic health records to replace paper that goes missing; and to their credit some hospital IT departments are replacing paper, sometimes because of innovations outside the NPfIT. Unfortunately the NPfIT has turned out to be a rickety vehicle for delivering electronic health records.
As long as ministers and officials continue to be obsessed with how the NPfIT is perceived they won’t order an independent review. How is that going to save patients who do not receive the necessary treatment because it’s not known what previous doctors said or did?