NHS National Programme for IT set for major changes

The controversial £12bn NHS IT project looks set for an overhaul as a result of a major reorganisation of the health service

The controversial £12bn NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) looks set for a major overhaul as a result of the reorganisation of the health service announced by the government today.

An NHS whitepaper released by the Department of Health sets out wide-ranging changes to the structure of the NHS.

The document talks about an "NHS information revolution" that will mean "new ways of delivering care, such as enabling patients to communicate with their clinicians about their health status online."

The department is to publish an information strategy in autumn "to seek views on how best to implement these changes."

"We will provide a range of online services which will mean services being provided much more efficiently at a time and place that is convenient for patients and carers, and will also enable greater efficiency," says the whitepaper.

The proposals imply changes to Summary Care Records, the most troubled and delayed part of the NPfIT.

"We will enable patients to have control of their health records. This will start with access to the records held by their GP and over time this will extend to health records held by all providers," says the whitepaper.

And the two main suppliers to NPfIT, BT and CSC, may face greater competition from new IT providers sourced locally by hospitals rather than through the centralised arrangement of the national programme.

"NHS services will increasingly be empowered to be the customers of a more plural system of IT and other suppliers," says the whitepaper.

But other aspects of NPfIT are likely to receive a boost, with the document highlighting the need to maximise use of Choose and Book, the online appointment booking system used by GPs to organise consultant meetings for patients.

NPfIT was not specifically mentioned in the whitepaper, but e-Health Insider reports that NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson told a press briefing at its launch that, "In the next four weeks we will be making an announcement on the NPfIT and how we will reconfigure and change it to reflect the bottom-up changes in this document."

Secretary of state for health Andrew Lansley said the whitepaper is the start of an" extensive consultation" that will take place over the coming weeks.

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