NHS pushes IT decisions locally but has no funding plan

The NHS is set to push IT decision making locally, but the government has not yet decided on a funding regime.

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The NHS is set to push IT decision making locally, but the government has not yet decided on a funding regime.

NHS Connecting for Health resources director Alan Perkins said on Tuesday that the funding model to support the trusts was "still under development".

Some of the funding is expected to come from a £1 billion settlement being thrashed out with failed National Programme for IT supplier CSC, which has only delivered patient records to three hospital trusts after nine years' work. However, this agreement has not been finalised.

Confusion also reigns as the Department of Health is retaining a series of national bodies and has insisted it may issue some nationally-set IT systems where needed. Nevertheless, any general move to localisation is likely to be supported by a raft of clinicians and trust executives who had argued for localised, standards-based IT before the start of the programme in 2003, and felt their concerns were ignored in the interests of a politically driven agenda.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley today insisted hospitals would be able to have the systems they wanted.

"In the past doctors and nurses have had to bend over backwards to fit in with the needs of the systems introduced to their workplaces. They were shackled with rigid, expensive IT contracts that failed to deliver as intended," he said.

"We are now putting local clinicians in the driving seat, able to reap the benefits of the explosion in information and technology which is re-shaping the world beyond the NHS."

The Department of Health said in a statement that the change was being made after "years of waste and delay in introducing electronic care records to hospitals". It described the changes as "an enormous breakthrough".

There will be a focus on allowing hospitals to deploy their own systems, adhering to new national standards, while opening the market to smaller suppliers. A new NHS Commissioning Board will set the national standards.

The government is expected to announce more details of its Informatics Strategy shortly.