NHS IT: spot the difference

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A tale of one IT project:

“By 2005, it is planned that there will be an electronic patient record system for all acute hospitals, integrated primary and community care records, and 24-hour emergency care access to patient records.”

“National roll-out is expected to begin early in 2008, but it will be several years before coverage is complete. A date has not yet been specified for the system to be fully operational.”

The first paragraph is from Derek Wanless’s groundbreaking review of healthcare funding, commissioned for the Treasury in 2002 – when Gordon Brown was chancellor – in which he paid special attention to the need for investment in IT and the importance of computer systems in building a health service that was fit for the future.

The second is from Wanless’s follow-up review, published today.

Wanless, a former Nat West bank chief executive, has taken a long, hard look at the NHS and the progress of its National Programme for IT. His findings make interesting reading: apart from noting the shortfalls in delivery of key elements of NPfIT, Wanless notes the programme is unaudited, does not have a business case to back it up, and risks creating supplier monopolies.

Wanless calls for a comprehensive audit of the costs and benefits of NPfIT and “detailed external scrutiny” of Connecting for Health.

Back in 2002, Gordon Brown welcomed the Wanless report with a flourish, backing the recommendations for greater funding with a Budget handout.

Let’s hope Brown takes as much notice of the former banker’s new review.

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