Report warns of flaws in NHS IT programme

The success of the £2.3bn NHS IT programme could be jeopardised unless sufficient resources and support go in to managing the...

The success of the £2.3bn NHS IT programme could be jeopardised unless sufficient resources and support go in to managing the numerous changes to IT systems and working practices required, according to a new report.


The programme is essential to government pledges on widening patient choice and greater efficiency in the NHS.


The Institute for Public Policy Research report into NHS IT investment said greater centralisation of IT management and procurement in the NHS lead to lower software prices and improve procurement times.


But the report added: “This high level of central funding isn’t necessarily guaranteed into the future and local funding for ICT and associated change management remains vulnerable. Funding for ICT projects has previously often been diverted into other areas to meet short term goals and there remains a danger that this may happen in future.”


The IPPR report, Public Value and E-Health, also noted that greater centralisation of IT strategy runs counter to other NHS policies, such as the creation of foundation trusts and more locally focussed approaches to making changes in hospital services. “It remains to be seen whether these moves will be compatible with the centralisation of decision making over ICT,” the report says.


IPPR research fellow and report author Jamie Bend, said the main focus of the National Programme for IT had so far been on IT procurement. “I do not think it has given enough thought to changing business processes. The state of play with regard to IT in the NHS is that current systems are so primitive that new systems will deliver some benefits, but to deliver the maximum benefits, there needs to be business process re-engineering.”


Clinician consultation was also a concern, he said. Although the report welcomes the appointment of Aidan Halligan as joint senior responsible owner of the programme, his roles as an advocate of the programme and a representative of the profession may not always be compatible, it said.


Replying to the report, the National Programme for IT in the NHS said, "The National Programme for IT welcomes the interest the IPPR has shown through its study of the benefits of IT systems and services in a number of pilots. 


"The National Programme has itself taken the lessons learnt from around the NHS, including electronic patient record and electronic booking pilots to inform its work to ensure that the systems and services it is developing and implementing will bring benefits for clinicians and patients alike.

"Benefits realisation is a core part of the work of the National Programme.   The business cases for the National Programme, approved by the Treasury in authorising the contracts, contained a number of benefits. These related to improved standards of treatment and diagnosis, improved accuracy in prescribing, and improved patient choice, apart from financial benefits that flow from cheaper contracts delivering greater value for money and savings from reduced paper, storage etc.


"The benefits realisation framework being developed by Aidan Halligan will enable individual trusts to assess, monitor and track benefits realisation throughout implementation."






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