MTAS bites the dust21st May 2007
Even as the pundits and commentators revived their observations about the state of the NHS National IT programme, with its ongoing delays, technical difficulties and overspends, there were those who were expressing concern about the impact of these delays on patient safety. It seems that, where Connecting for Health is concerned, we can neither live with it nor without it.
Not so the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS) for recruiting junior doctors which was finally shelved after months of protests and claims of unfairness. And no one appears to be sorry to see it go. Though the MTAs system is to be kept in a monitoring role, its utility in matching doctors to posts will end.
Even so, no one should be fooled into thinking that a national computer system is never the answer to these issues. In concept the MTAS system was sound; it was the project management and implementation that failed and I am sure that, like the system for the Child Support Agency before it, lessons will be learned.
The Government has had to take this one on the chin - the MTAS debacle even prompted an apology from the Health Secretary - so it is ironic that the first person to resign following the decision is the BMA Chairman for not expressing the anger of the junior doctors vociferously enough in his dealings with ministers.
What the government didn't need at this point was the collapse of another Whitehall-sponsored system. Why? Because it will add more fuel to the burning debate of whether government should be running these projects at all; they do seem to be often out of their depth.
At this point I should nail my colours to the mast. I am completely in favour of a national IT system. In this day and age I can't conceive of a future where any doctor or nurse or administrator in the NHS who needs access to my information (suitably filtered) will not be able to obtain it with ease. I may be in the minority but I actually want this to be the case. If I have to give my full medical history to every health professional I meet it will drive me mad; they need the information and my memory is simply not robust enough to provide it.
What I have never been comfortable with is the Government as project manager. This is yet more evidence that they have too many other conflicting priorities to do these things properly.
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