The Department for Health has advised local NHS trusts to procure their own “interim” IT systems, instead of waiting for the much delayed rollout of technology under the £12.7 billion National Programme for IT.
The advice, given in the government’s Health Informatics Review, marks an admission that local trusts require some systems much faster than the central NPfIT programme is delivering.
Some parts of the national programme, most notably the care records systems, are running four years late.
Local trust demands on the programme have been increasing in recent years, and the NHS responded to this last year by giving trusts a larger say under the National Local Ownership Programme. But this may have been part of the problem behind the failure of the contract negotiations with Fujitsu, under which the two parties could not agree on the localisation terms for systems after trusts made 615 change requests to Fujitsu.
Under the new arrangements, trusts would buy systems from existing suppliers working on the National Programme for IT, to act as interim technology until the final systems are rolled out. The systems could include communications, electronic prescriptions, bed allocation and general administration systems.
Trusts will need to have plans approved by the government, and should work with NHS Connecting for Health to devise a strategy to make the systems interoperable with future NPfIT technology. Some of the local systems should be made available nationally to the NHS as interim solutions, the report said.
It added that “local delivery, particularly into acute hospitals, has not progressed as quickly as people would wish", and "more must be done to enable trusts to realise benefits earlier”.
The move is likely to be seen by some as a major step away from the national programme, which has sought to supply largely uniform systems across large regions of the country.
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