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Delays to Connecting for Health

20th June 2006

04032006_LaptopStethoscope1.jpgIn a long anticipated report, the National Audit Office has confirmed that key parts of the NHS Connecting for Health programme were behind schedule.

The programme comprises a number of new systems including an online booking system, a centralised digital medical records system for 50 million patients, electronic prescriptions and a high speed computer network linking NHS organisations. The programme aims to link more than 30,000 GPs to nearly 300 hospitals by 2014 but both the online booking system and electronic care records were experiencing significant delays.

The online booking system, Choose and Book, is already a year behind schedule, while the electronic records system has been delayed by more than two years.

The report also claims that the programme has been "hampered by a failure to get the support of the staff who would be using it“ and 30% of NHS staff still have little or no knowledge about the project.

"The NHS needs to improve communication with its own staff, impose tighter controls on contractors and communicate better what it was hoping to achieve.‚Ä?

The NAO also said that the total bill for the programme would be £12.4bn. This includes the original £6.2bn contract cost which has now risen to £6.8bn due to the scope of the programme extending. Other costs include training and funding implementation in NHS trusts. The figure of £20bn which has been widely reported includes spending on the existing IT infrastructure while the new systems are put in place.

So far, most of the costs of delays were being met by the private sector under the terms of their NHS contracts but their impact could still undermine confidence in the programme.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association’s family doctors committee continues to have concerns about patient confidentiality and has argued that patients should be consulted individually before their data is added to the system. If this happens, the adoption of a national clinical record would be much slower.

 

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