NHS IT review in two years

MPs give NHS Executive two-year deadline review on IT investment strategy. Guy Campos reports

MPs give NHS Executive two-year deadline review on IT investment strategy. Guy Campos reports

The Public Accounts Committee has given the NHS Executive two years to prove it has learnt from past IT failures.

In its latest report the committee argues that the scale of past failures, the importance of the current strategy to improving healthcare and the £1bn budget for the 1998 strategy, require it to re-examine progress in two years' time.

Committee chairman David Davis said, "Time and again we have seen poor design, poor implementation and weak cost control. There now needs to be a sea change in the way the NHS manages its investment in IT. Many of the building blocks are in place, but the NHS Executive needs to exercise a firm grip on implementation to secure the full benefits of investing more than £1bn into the system."

The committee says it is encouraged that the NHS Executive plans to take a more interventionist approach to local implementation of its strategy. It welcomed promises to map interdependencies between projects, build flexibility into the strategy and monitor local spending against baseline budgets.

Public Accounts Committee principles of implementation

  • IT decisions are business not technical decisions and must have senior management involvement

  • End-users must be identified before the project begins so their needs are taken fully into account

  • Departments should consider carefully whether projects are too ambitious to undertake in one go, particularly if they depend on third parties

  • Successful implementation calls for imagination, risk management and sound project management

  • It is essential to ensure clarity in public sector contracts, to avoid expensive misunderstandings

  • Staff must be trained to make full use of IT

  • Departments should have contingency plans in case of project failures

  • Organisations should learn from post-implementation reviews

  • Read more on IT risk management