NHS programme battles for user buy-in as BMA voices concern

The British Medical Association has called for greater clinician involvement in the national programme for NHS IT.

The British Medical Association has called for greater clinician involvement in the national programme for NHS IT.

John Powell, chairman of the BMA’s committee for IT, said, "Doctors working ‘at the coalface’ have not been adequately involved in the programme to improve the NHS IT infrastructure.

"Evaluation needs not only to demonstrate value for money for taxpayers, but also to offer clinicians improved, usable systems."

The BMA statement came as MP Richard Bacon, a member of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, wrote to the National Audit Office to highlight inadequate consultation over the £2.3bn national programme for IT. The government’s public spending watchdog is already studying aspects of the national programme.

Bacon’s letter was prompted by publicity about the resignation of Peter Hutton as chairman of the National Clinical Advisory Board, which was set up to listen to health staff and shape the way the national programme develops in partnership with technical experts.

Hutton, chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, is reported to have said that the advisory board remains concerned about the level of clinical engagement in the programme.

In his letter, Bacon said, "The national programme for IT in the NHS has failed to consult users adequately and has studiously avoided redesigning business processes in parallel with the new technology - thereby ignoring various NAO and PAC recommendations."

Bacon was referring to plans for the Department of Health to begin going live with major systems this summer, before changes in business processes have been agreed nationally or locally.

Responding to the concerns, a spokesman for the national programme said clinicians had an input into the project to ensure the specification reflected clinical best practice. "We have contracted the suppliers to put the tested systems into a ‘model community’ in each cluster, to be tested in a simulated clinical environment that enables working practices to be trialled alongside the systems as well as the training material and guidance," he said.

The programme promised to work closely with clinicians on the design of the clinical processes that will be supported by the systems to ensure quality and safety improvements are built into all aspects of the IT systems.

The Department of Health announced last week that it would be "reviewing the formal arrangements for engaging the NHS, patients and other stakeholders in order to support the effective implementation of the national programme for IT".

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