NHS managers support probe on IT spending plans

NHS IT leaders have voiced their support for Computer Weekly’s campaign to ensure the £5bn to be invested in health service IT...

NHS IT leaders have voiced their support for Computer Weekly’s campaign to ensure the £5bn to be invested in health service IT projects is spent wisely.

While professional and management bodies such as the British Medial Association and the NHS Confederation have welcomed the initiative, department managers working in NHS IT have contacted Computer Weekly to express their support.

Among them, Ted Woodhouse, director of IT at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which is the largest trust in the UK, said, “I am pleased that Computer Weekly is committed to supporting this major new government investment in the NHS, and I fully support its campaign.”

Computer Weekly is in favour of the government’s £5bn investment in NHS IT over five years, but shares the concern of many industry experts that such spending should be controlled effectively, to deliver applications that are useful to hundreds of thousands of NHS workers.

“The questions that Computer Weekly is asking are very good ones, and everyone involved with the new NHS IT programme, from top to bottom, needs to be sure that the answers are just as good,” Woodhouse said.

He believes that Computer Weekly’s campaign could help provide the NHS with the best possible IT support for clinicians and patients. “This campaign will assist the programme to deliver IT to the NHS in a way which best supports the clinicians, and, even more importantly, the patients,” he said.

An IT manager in a southern England NHS trust, who asked not to be named, said, “I think that Computer Weekly’s campaign is right. Throwing billions of pounds at NHS IT will not necessarily solve things.”

He highlighted the importance of technology infrastructures and IT training for NHS staff. “The technology infrastructure has to be correct and there needs to be a huge investment in both IT training and training facilities,” he said.

Adequate pay for health service IT professionals is another issue that could have an impact on the government’s national programme, said the NHS IT specialist.

“All this has to be backed up by pay. The NHS has to look at IT salaries and make sure that everyone is getting paid the right amount for what they are doing,” he said. “Traditionally the NHS has trained people who have then moved on to the private sector.”
He also warned that the health service must be very careful in implementing the national programme. “If you try to do everything at once, anarchy will set in. The programme has to be workable.

“This has to be done in realistic timescales. You need a lot of interfaces and standardisation. It will take many years to get that in place and working as it should do,” he added.

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