NHS computer systems under renewed attack from MPs

MPs have criticised “a worrying lack of progress” on implementing local systems to support the planned National Care Record Service.

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MPs have criticised “a worrying lack of progress” on implementing local systems to support the planned National Care Record Service.

The electronic patient record systems – with a summary care record (SCR) and, eventually, a detailed care record (DCR) for each-patient form the core of the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

But in a new report, the Commons health select committee warns that the huge computer project is being hampered by delays and lack of clarity about the scope of some systems.

“In particular, the introduction of new basic hospital Patient Administration Systems (PAS) has been seriously delayed,” the report says. One of the two main hospital PAS products - Lorenzo, to be supplied by troubled software firm iSoft - will not be trialled in these NHS until 2008. “As a result of these and other delays, it is not clear when joined-up DCR systems will be widely available.”

The MPs “found it difficult to ascertain either the level of information sharing that will be possible when DCR systems are delivered, or how sophisticated local IT applications will be”, the report adds.

It points to a shifting scope for the project. “In its original specification documents in 2003, NPfIT established a clear vision for local electronic records systems. Four years later, however, the descriptions of the scope and capability of planned DCR systems offered by officials and suppliers were vague and inconsistent,” the report says.

The MPs heard some witnesses suggest that “parts of the original vision have been abandoned because of the difficulties of implementing new systems at a local level”.

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