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NHS IT upgrade failings

5th December 2006

The £20bn NHS IT programme is to be scaled back because of technical problems.

A secret report reveals the IT programme to establish a central database of 50m patients’ records is falling short of its intended scope.

The documents drawn up by senior NHS staff say the IT upgrade is under funded and over ambitious. Its authors also say technology firms have failed to keep up with its demands.

And the software available means the electronic records will now contain only a fraction of the information originally planned.

The documents detailing the programme’s failings were submitted to the board of Britain's largest NHS trust, Leeds Teaching Hospitals, by its director and deputy director of informatics. It was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Computer Weekly magazine.

It details difficulties in setting up the Spine database, which was meant to include a summary of essential medical information, including surgery and chronic illnesses.

The database would be accessible to clinicians all over the country and patients would be able to view their information and alter it if necessary.

But the paper submitted to Leeds says the reality of this is a central database which covers very little, other than allergies and GP prescribing.

The NHS IT programme is now almost three years behind schedule. This means the target for 90 per cent of all hospital appointments to be made online by March next year, is likely to be missed because of software delays, says the report.

The Health Select Committee has begun an inquiry into the scheme, on behalf of NHS chief executive David Nicholson.



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