Expert slams IT investment without reform

Investing in NHS IT systems is a waste of money unless the way the health service works is also reformed, according to a leading...

Investing in NHS IT systems is a waste of money unless the way the health service works is also reformed, according to a leading professor of healthcare IT.

Moreover, given the state of NHS databases, patient waiting lists could be shortened without using computers at all.

In the week that health secretary Alan Milburn injected another £85m into health service IT, Peter Millard, emeritus professor at St George's Hospital, London, criticised the quality of the NHS databases.

"The NHS electronic database is appalling," he said. "It is full of errors. Some staff have no knowledge of computing - they cannot download simple data. The best thing that could happen is for the computer system to take a virus and die and for hospital administrators to go back to pen and ink.

"Performance measures based on false concepts and inaccurate data are demoralising the staff and making the problem worse," Millard added.
Millard was speaking on NHS IT at the Real Time Club meeting of IT professionals last week.

Another speaker at the meeting added, "To rejuvenate the health service you have to get people - administrators, clinicians and others - all working together to create a vision, then devise strategies and the organisational structure, and, only then, think about the IT. The NHS needs to communicate internally, and then the IT strategy should follow."

Last week Microsoft chief software architect Bill Gates, when speaking to an audience of invited NHS chief executives, said electronic databases could improve the accuracy of information compared to paper-based records. Gates and Milburn are discussing how the NHS can make better use of IT.

Further information
Real Time club: www.realtimeclub.org.uk

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