Details of £2.3bn project being resolved on the fly

The national programme's successes and potential for failure dominated events at last week's Healthcare Computing conference

The national programme's successes and potential for failure dominated events at last week's Healthcare Computing conference.

The detail of the government's £2.3bn IT-led modernisation of the health service is being resolved as the initiative goes along, Richard Granger, the head of IT in the NHS, told the Healthcare Computing conference at Harrogate last week.

Granger said the primary focus of the national programme for IT in the NHS was delivery. "We could stop and get down to all the detail on everything and deliver nothing, or we could get on with the job and resolve the detail as we go, which is what we are doing," he said.

Granger listed the achievements of the national programme, including the establishment of a "gold standard" for buying IT systems - a standard he said would be rolled out across government. But he also responded to the concerns of many supporters of the programme - including several speakers at the conference - some of whom said there are uncertainties about how it will be implemented locally, and whether there will be enough funding.

"There are lots of ambiguities that need sorting out," said Granger. "There are lots of people asking very reasonable questions and we are working through answering those questions."

He also referred to the rapid pace of the project. "This programme is not known for being conventional. We have broken a lot of myths that people have about the pace at which you can do things, the scale at which you can do them."

But he said preparing for the award of the first contract, for the electronic booking of appointments, had been "exhausting".

Granger said he welcomed the support he has received. "I don't get masses of feedback butÉ people walked up to me at two to three this morning and asked me to guarantee that I would not be going away, that I would be staying to see this programme through. I find that great, that people are saying they really want to have leadership and work as a team to deliver this programme."

Based on the deals struck by the programme, the Office of Government Commerce is "going to establish new contract terms and conditions, and procurement arrangements nationally", said Granger.

Communications between the national programme and healthcare organisations will improve over the next year. But already in the past six months 20,000 clinicians had been involved in events around this programme, he said.

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