Government tells hospitals not to wait for NHS IT programme

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.

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Paul Jones, chief technology officer on the programme, recently told Computerworld UK the NHS was setting a handful of key IT standards to help make sure different systems interoperated. But he denied that it was an about-turn for the government's strategy, saying "we’re not moving away from the national programme”.

Connecting for Health has not yet responded to a request for comment on the new report.

In June, Royal Berkshire NHS Trust said it was considering walking away from the programme. Analysts have said the NHS should urgently reconsider its IT strategy as a balance between local and national demands became difficult to manage.

The report also highlighted that concerns remain over the security of digital care records. “Patient and public confidence in the security of electronic patient information is critical to the success of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and there is a clear recognition that more needs to be done,” it added. This involved both technical and policy work.

There is a shortage of NHS IT project managers, the report said, and it recommended a new chief information officer for health position be created. The new CIO would sit on the NHS management board and report directly to the NHS chief executive.

By the end of June, 486,000 users had been registered for access to the national spine, which is the database holding the care records system. Some 8.7 million electronic appointments had been made and there were 32,000 connections to the NHS broadband network.

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