Some NHS staff and executives involved in implementing the national programme for IT (NPfIT) have serious misgivings about aspects of the scheme, including its failure to engage local health employees.
Their concerns were highlighted in a paper titled Challenges to implementing the national programme for IT: a qualitative study, published in the British Medical Journal, the magazine of the professional organisation for British doctors.
The paper's authors, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, held interviews with 23 people from four trusts, including senior management, staff and clinicians.
One trust chief executive quoted said, "[It will be] over a decade in some places before anybody at some trusts sees any difference." Although there were many criticisms in the paper - it found, for example, that the "process of implementation has been suboptimal" - its authors recognised that only four trusts were involved in their research.
An IT manager in one of the trusts told the researchers that the NPfIT had organised "some wonderful events" but that communication had been "absolutely appalling". The manager said, "I have met some people who are greatÉ and next week you are told not to talk to them."
The paper also acknowledged that some of the biggest problems that could affect the success of the NPfIT were not always within the power of those running the national programme to solve.
"Differences in working practices and organisational culture seem to have created tensions that may make the job of getting ready for the NHS care records service especially challenging," it said.
Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said, "Large-scale public IT projects do not have a good track record in the UK and so it is paramount that the NHS learns the lessons of history and engages wherever possible with the frontline staff who will be using the new systems to deliver better patient care."
She added that Connecting for Health, which is running the IT programme, had "more recently made significant progress in its efforts to involve NHS staff".
A spokeswoman for the NPfIT said the BMJ paper "pre-empts a major communications campaign due to commence in September".