Health service has spent £900m on IT in this tax year

Nearly £900m has been spent on NHS IT during the current financial year, despite fears that the national programme to overhaul...

Nearly £900m has been spent on NHS IT during the current financial year, despite fears that the national programme to overhaul health service technology would initially hold back local IT investment.

John Pattison, research director at the Department of Health, used the figures to help allay concerns about the effect of the government's plan to upgrade NHS IT. Some users and suppliers had expressed concern that local IT projects could be put on hold until the full impact of the strategy became apparent.

NHS trust IT directors have told Computer Weekly they are having difficulty getting funding for local projects, even if the projects support the national programme. Also, despite spending on the national programme, some trusts have had to use charity funding earmarked for patient care to upgrade IT systems.

Pattison said, "The supplier community and the NHS have been worried that the consequence of having a national programme would be a dramatic slowdown in the amount of local activity.

"But when we review the baseline spending we find that somewhere between £800m and £900m was spent on IT and informatics during the current financial year."

He confirmed that these spending levels are likely to increase in future.

Pattison used the Harrogate event to underline the progress of the national programme. He said, "We promised that there would be a greater degree of standardisation in NHS IT than hitherto, and we have published a variety of documents to that end. We now have a design authority in place working to develop these standards."

Partnerships with other government departments, suppliers and clinicians have also flourished over the past 12 months, he said.

Richard Granger, the new NHS IT tsar, was also praised by Pattison during his keymote speech, as was Lord Hunt, who recently resigned as health minister.

"Hunt was, throughout the past 12 months, a great champion and a great leader for developments in IT in the NHS," he said.

Pattison added that arrangements are currently underway to appoint his replacement.

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