CIOs lack confidence in government to deliver NHS IT innovation

CIOs in the healthcare sector are not confident in the government’s ability to deliver IT innovation in the NHS.

CIOs in the healthcare sector are not confident in the government’s ability to deliver IT innovation in the NHS.

Three quarters of CIOs interviewed for a Xirrus report are either "not very confident" or "not confident at all" in the government’s IT abilities.

CIOs want the government to help them standardise data across the NHS and increase IT integration and information sharing across all healthcare organisations. The report says government investment is required to develop a joined-up approach across health and social care.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s aim for the NHS to become paperless by 2018 has been well received by healthcare CIOs. Two thirds of respondents are making paperless a priority and making changes in IT to allow it to happen.

eTransactions and ePrescriptions were seen as the two technologies that would enable a paperless NHS, as well as high-capacity wireless to allow clinicians to access online records at a patient’s bedside.

The main challenge facing the NHS in delivering a paperless approach is funding, with 26% of CIOs stating monetary issues. While other obstacles include security (17%), cultural resistance (17%) and a lack of enabling IT infrastructure (17%).

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“The 2013 technology fund to help enable the paperless NHS initiative was open for a short time to request funds, so people should get planning for the imminent 2014 technology fund,” said Mark Austin, Assistant Director of Clinical Information and Business Intelligence, Bedford Hospital NHS Trust.

Austin also said more established consultants may struggle with records going paperless, and the digitalisation approach should be phased in.

“We found that e-prescribing was a comfortable first step as clinicians no longer had to spend time going back to wards or the pharmacy to check their handwriting, freeing up their time and providing clear benefit,” he said.

Towards the end of last year, MPs said that, due to the shortcomings of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), they are sceptical that the NHS will be paperless by 2018. A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report said this area will require further investment in IT and business transformation, but the Department of Health (DoH) has not set aside a specific budget for this purpose.

The NPfIT was branded a “fiasco” by MPs, who said the programme was still incur significant costs. The DoH’s latest figures forecast a total cost of £9.8bn.

The NPfIT programme was launched in 2002. It was designed to digitise patient’s electronic care records to be shared across different parts of the NHS.

While some parts of the programme were delivered successfully, the project suffered delays in developing and deploying the care records systems. The original plan was abandoned by the government two years ago, following three reports by the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee and a review by the Major Projects Authority.

The project has since been dismantled, but successful parts of the programme have been kept in place under a new management and accountability structure.

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