The NHS must move away from the current limited supplier model in the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT, according to the BCS.
In its response to a Department of Health consultation on the 'Information Revolution', BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT said it was fundamental to the success of IT in the NHS that the market is opened up to a wide range of suppliers.
The NHS needed to take "rapid steps", the BCS said, to "reintroduce competition into the NHS supplier market". Currently, NHS IT under the National Programme is provided by two dominant suppliers, CSC and BT, with additional capacity on offer from other providers.
The BCS added that frameworks such as ASCC, which allows for additional work on the National Programme to be contracted to other suppliers, be enhanced "so that new vendors can be added to the framework if they demonstrate a product meets the national minimum requirements for information governance, functionality, data standards and interoperability".
There also needed to be simple ways of removing from the frameworks suppliers that perform poorly, it said.
Technological improvement was vital to the development of the NHS, the BCS said. But it noted a major problem in how IT in the NHS continues to be perceived by the public and by health chiefs.
"The implementation of information services and IT needs to be viewed as a necessary supporting infrastructure to the redesign of service, not as an end in itself," it said.
"The NHS and the informatics community needs to win back public and care professional trust through better explanation of the benefits of the information revolution and more care in ensuring that the individual patient is engaged and activated in their health and wellbeing."
In a comment apparently directed at the troubled National Programme and a top-down approach to IT nationally, the BCS said NHS technology needed to be developed in an open market with "rigorous" standards.
This was "a necessary condition to allow a flourishing market of interoperable solutions", it said. This could then build on existing technology put in place by the programme.
"We recommend a single overarching approvals and/or assurance body for informatics standards, directed by the Secretary of State for Health, covering health, social care and population health," it said. "The role should include rapidly setting standards with roadmaps for information management that are stable, enabling ICT suppliers to rapidly innovate solutions for health and care".
Standards were crucial for proper interoperability with external health providers, the BCS said, who should also follow the model. All such businesses "should be given notice that they will be expected to be using an electronic patient record (EPR) in a meaningful way within five years", it said.
The NHS should also follow the example of the US, where criteria covering "meaningful use" of a patient record are clear, it said. The US is in the early stages of its own patient records programme.
As the NHS plans to make performance and other data more publicly available, it needed to oblige healthcare suppliers to do the same, the BCS said. There needed to be a "mature attitude" to releasing data, it added, with a full explanation of information so it is not misinterpreted by the public.
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