EDS hopes for central role in NHS overhaul

EDS has outlined its ambitions to be at the centre of the government's multibillion-pound investment strategy to overhaul the NHS...

EDS has outlined its ambitions to be at the centre of the government's multibillion-pound investment strategy to overhaul the NHS IT infrastructure.

The targeting of the lucrative NHS market by the IT services giant underlines the boom in public sector IT, in stark contrast to most other industries, where budgets have been cut back in response to the economic downturn.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Bill Thomas, managing director of EDS UK and Ireland, backed the government's national strategy for overhauling health service IT systems.

"If you want to have a seamless patient journey through the NHS you must have a national strategy. The NHS has traditionally been fragmented [for IT services] with each trust doing its own thing. The big mistake in the past was not having a national strategy," he said.

However, critics of the government's NHS blueprint have warned that it is doomed to failure if the government ignores the wishes of local NHS bodies.

Thomas said a balance would have to be struck between managing the NHS IT shake-up from Whitehall and giving local NHS IT chiefs sufficient input into the sweeping changes.

"We [and other suppliers] have been consulted by the NHS in a way that we never have been before," he said.

Key planks of the government NHS IT strategy include delivering national services for electronic bookings, integrated care records and improved procurement.

EDS has already been named as the preferred supplier to develop a common e-mail system for the health service.


What is the "Delivering 21st Century Support for the NHS" plan?   

The Delivering 21st Century Support for the NHS initiative was unveiled by health minister Lord Hunt in June last year. 

Under the terms of the plan, which is scheduled to start in April, health service IT is likely to receive £5bn of much-needed government funding. 

Primary projects include a national patient booking system, electronic health records and electronic reporting of laboratory results.  Key elements of the strategy include setting stringent national standards for data and IT and establishing a centralised procurement strategy. 

Richard Grainger was last year appointed as national IT programme director - often referred to as the NHS IT tsar - to implement what has been described as "the IT challenge of the decade". 

The recruitment push to provide the IT expertise behind the strategy has now begun. The Department of Health recently advertised for a range of positions based in Leeds and Birmingham to help to underpin the national programme. Salaries quoted for the roles range from £19,000 to £30,000 for project leaders, project support analysts and project support officers, and up to £70,000 for those heading the programme.  T

he successful candidates will be employed by the NHS Information Authority, a body set up to improve patient care and provide national products, services and standards for information in the health service.

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