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Future of NHS IT

28th August 2009

As the Department of Health quietly turns away from central control of IT, HSJ writer Dave West discusses what will replace it and the impact of a change of government.

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The national programme for IT meant NHS organisations were tied to the firm contracted by the government for their region.

That has, albeit very quietly, changed as the Department of Health begins to allow trusts to develop solutions of their own and other private providers to move in.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have a vision of renegotiating the national contracts and asking trusts to pick from an open “catalogue” of IT systems that can communicate with each other.

There is a view that the national programme led to delays and stifled local innovation, though others argue it is more a matter of perception.

The change is allowing foundations to develop business cases for their own IT projects, though cost could be a pitfall of any new direction with cash that is less likely to be available in the medium term.

The NHS Confederation has reservations about the Conservative plan because it could add to cost.

Another concern is that some organisations may develop successful systems, but others may not. Also, localised IT systems may not talk to each other effectively.

There is a degree of enthusiasm among IT managers in the NHS about the new direction but also concerns that the good should not be thrown out with the bad.

Where there is near unity is in opposing the Conservative plan to dismantle the “spine” element of the national programme to store and transfer data between organisations.

 

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