Health service managers question national programme consultation

Sixty per cent of NHS managers believe there has not been enough consultation on the national programme for IT, according to new...

Sixty per cent of NHS managers believe there has not been enough consultation on the national programme for IT, according to new research.

A survey of more than 200 NHS managers and management consultants in the health sector revealed that 28% thought they had not been consulted at all about the £2.3bn national programme, and 32% said they should have had more opportunity to be involved in the process.

In addition 25% said the planned changes to NHS processes were insufficient

"A lot of people wanted more consultation. They want more power at a local level, because they know what the processes are," said Fiona Czerniawska, director of the Management Consultancies Association, which carried out the research.

"If people are not sure what is going on, they do not feel engaged and the more likely they are to resist change," she said.

There was also a perception among managers that in its inception the national programme did not have enough knowledge of local business processes within the NHS, Czerniawska said.

"The programme is between a rock and a hard place. It cannot consult everybody, but if it does not consult enough people, they feel disenchanted. You need a critical mass."

Speaking to an NHS select committee last month, health minister John Hutton said, "I am amazingly confident in the quality of the people I have working on this programme, both in terms of IT and in people management."

Phil Kenmore, head of healthcare consulting at the Hay Group, who contributed to the report, said business processes in the NHS were different compared to those in the private sector.

"Managers in a private company have more direct control of the resources around them, but an NHS manager works in a complex environment with multiple stakeholders, where influencing skills are much more important.

"You can have as much money as you want, but if you don't have the people leadership you need, even the most brilliantly-designed processes will fall over - and fall over very quickly," he said.

Although the managers surveyed thought communication from the national programme to local NHS staff could improve, most were optimistic about the goals of delivering electronic patient records, electronic prescribing, a new infrastructure and an appointment booking system.

Of those surveyed, 91% said the programme would improve efficiency of patient care.

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