Health chiefs tell NHS trusts not to wait for NPfIT

NHS trusts should implement interim IT systems instead of waiting for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to deliver in 2012, a government review of health IT has concluded.

NHS trusts should implement interim IT systems instead of waiting for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to deliver in 2012, a government review of health IT has concluded.

The Department of Health's Health Informatics Review, said that trusts needed access to interim solutions before the conclusion of the £12.4bn NPFIT.

"Benefits need to be achieved for patients and clinicians sooner than waiting for the strategic systems. Solutions are needed pending delivery of the strategic systems," the report said.

Gordon Hextall, director of informatics at the Department of Health, acknowledged that trusts are "frustrated" at how long it is taking to develop the strategic systems of the NPfIT.

"Whilst the programme has started for the acute hospital systems, it's going to take four years longer than thought to get them in everywhere," he said.

Under the plan, trusts will be able implement interim solutions for patient administration systems, order communications and diagnostics reporting, discharge and accident and emergency letters, scheduling for beds and tests, and e-prescribing.

Local Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) and Connecting for Health, the body that is delivering the NPfIT, will develop "roadmaps", to roll out the interim systems.

Trusts will be able to buy the systems from

suppliers who are already developing the strategic systems for the NPfIT.

The systems will be delivered on a case-by-case basis, and each trust will have to provide a business case for each system, the Department of Health said.

"Some products and services currently available from individual LSPs are already delivering benefits. They should be made more widely available to the NHS," the report said.

Trusts will not be encouraged to find their own suppliers, said Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director and interim director general for informatics. "If people start going it alone we'll have a free for all. That would be a great opportunity cost."

The NHS plans to develop a staff portal providing a "one-stop-shop" for internal IT systems that are used regularly. It is also developing a prototype for a "clinical dashboard". This will give clinicians many sources of clinical information from the hospital in a single display. The aim is to improve the clinical team's ability to improve care.

These two proposals are outside the original NPfIT, and may require "tens of millions" in extra investment, Hextall said.

Seperately the report warned that the NHS is experiencing a shortage of "appropriately experienced change, programme and project managers."

The department said it will increase training and careers investment, including the creation of a graduate training scheme.

Health chiefs have short-listed candidates for the role of chief information officer for health, who will sit on the NHS management board.

The appointment of the CIO for health will "provide a clear message about the importance of the informatics agenda," according to the report.

The Informatics Review looked at how information can be better used across the NHS. It will be followed by an Implementation Report this autumn.

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