Confused procurement slows NHS IT progress

The NHS plans to invest in technology as part of its five year Forward View, to increase patient care and close growing gaps in service.

The use of  highly centralised and local IT procurement in tandem has slowed progress in the NHS's use of IT, according to the organisation's  five year Forward View report.

A previous focus on the now defunct NHS National Programme for IT to centralise IT, and the continued investment in IT at a local level has meant the NHS has not benefited from IT interoperability, the report said.

"Part of why progress has not been as fast as it should have been is that the NHS has oscillated between two opposite approaches to information technology adoption – neither of which now makes sense," said the report,

"At times we have tried highly centralised national procurements and implementations. When they have failed due to lack of local engagement and lack of sensitivity to local circumstances, we have veered to the opposite extreme of ‘letting a thousand flowers bloom’. The result has been systems that don’t talk to each other, and a failure to harness the shared benefits that come from interoperable systems."

This has caused the NHS to adopt both highly centralised and small local systems, which cannot communicate. To resolve this, the NHS plans to develop new systems to connect these fragments, and install national interoperability standards to ensure future projects are able to communicate with the already existing structure.

The report also outlined plans to invest in technology to increase patient care and close growing gaps in service.

It said the NHS will "raise its game" on health technology to improve patient experience, and aims to "empower" patients by using digital strategies to allow all patients access to their medical and care records, and provide out-of-hours services.

The newly established National Information Board (NIB) will produce plans later this year to outline how to improve digital care, including initiatives such as developing NHS accredited health apps, interoperable electronic health records, and staff training to provide support to those struggling to use new technologies. 

According to the government: "The strategic direction agreed by the National Information Board will steer the priorities and commissioning for technology and information services delivered by the Health & Social Care Information Centre and other agencies, and partner organisations."

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