That is the warning from Nigel Bell, chief executive of the National Health Service Information Authority.
Speaking to Computer Weekly this week about the Government's new NHS IT strategy, Building the Information Core - Implementing the NHS Plan, Bell said, "The skills shortage is a massive issue. If we don't crack it, we won't have the depths of skills or the sheer capacity to do all the things we want to do."
NHS IT professionals have complained that there is a significant lack of IT skills in the service because IT staff tend to train up then move to higher paid jobs in the private sector, taking their expertise with them.
Bell said that to retain expertise in healthcare IT systems within the NHS the service would have to recognise market conditions for IT skills.
"If we don't recruit the staff we end up paying two or three times more for consultants to come in, so there is value to the taxpayer," he said.
Bell said he hoped the diverse organisations that make up the health service would accept reality over IT pay conditions.
Other senior IT chiefs in the public sector could soon be following Bell's example. The latest IT Trends survey from the Society of Information Technology Management reported that 70% of those leaving local authority IT departments went to jobs outside the public sector, with better rates of pay and career prospects cited as the main reasons for leaving.