NHS delays roll-out of key national records systems

Plans for key new systems to go live in the south of England under the NHS’s National Programme for IT (NPfIT) have been put back so that lessons can be learned from a troubled roll-out at Oxford’s Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

Plans for key new systems to go live in the south of England under the NHS’s National Programme for IT (NPfIT) have been put back so that lessons can be learned from a troubled roll-out at Oxford’s Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

Public spending watchdog the National Audit Office had sent a team to Nuffield to learn the lessons from the go-live in December 2005, which caused months of significant disruption. But a 60-page National Audit Office report on the NPfIT made no mention of the problems or the lessons learned.

The delays in the South were revealed in a circular from the Royal United Hospital NHS Trust Bath. It said that the changes made after the Nuffield experience had “affected all subsequent go live dates”.

Nuffield went live with the first implementation in the South by main supplier Fujitsu of a basic version of the NPfIT Care Records Service.

But the difficulties led to postponed operations, patients turning up for clinics with no records of their appointments and patients not being sent appointments.

The trust has also been unable for several months to produce reports on its performance. In May it reported having breached national targets for treating patients.

Jan Fowler, director of nursing and operations, said in May that the trust had four months of difficulty in producing activity reports and until recently had been unable to produce information that  identified patients who needed to be brought forward for treatment within national targets.

She said the trust was writing to all patients who had “unfortunately waited longer than the national standard, to apologise for their delays”. 

Lessons learned include extending testing times, and modifying the software from US company Cerner. 

The National Audit Office’s report on the NPfIT was generally positive, but it did not comment on the overall feasibility of the programme and had material omissions. 

 

NHS IT costs scrutinised in the House of Commons

The costs of the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) were discussed at a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee hearing yesterday (26 June) and will be raised again in one of the opening topics at Prime Minister’s Questions tomorrow.

MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, will ask Tony Blair how much has been spent on the NPfIT. It is not known whether Blair will disclose the money spent on the central contracts or the entire programme so far.

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