The Department of Health today announced that it will dismantle the £11.4 billion NHS National Programme for IT. It comes as a cross-party committee stated that the project had proved ‘…beyond the capacity of the Department of Health to deliver and the department is no longer delivering a universal system’.
The main objective of the project was to create a single digital network with a medical record for each of the country’s 62 million people. This would allow members of the NHS to access and share patients’ details across the country and across departments. This however has not been achieved, and what has been left is a disjointed and disparate set of IT systems.
Trying to justify some of the huge expenditure and not label the entire project a failure, the Department of Health stated:
“The NPfIT achieved much in terms of infrastructure and this will be maintained, along with national applications, such as the Summary Care Record and Electronic Prescriptions Service, which are crucial to improving patient safety and efficiency. But we need to move on from a top down approach and instead provide information systems driven by local decision-making. This is the only way to make sure we get value for money and that the modern NHS meets the needs of patients.”
Existing contracts for parts of the IT programme will be honoured, and the NHS Connecting for Health – the overseer of new IT systems – will also stay. However individual hospitals, GP practices and other NHS departments will now have to source and implement their own IT systems – provided they comply with the NHS Connecting for Health structure.
This all means that NHS hospitals and GP’s will now be able to implement IT systems that work for them and their patients. Because control will be passed to localised level, this should in theory, mean a quicker and more efficient delivery of IT services. Surely they cannot be any worse than the ill-fated national project; they certainly won’t be as expensive!
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