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“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee

 
 

Press Release Fixing NHS IT: How to save £1bn and get IT working for patients

An incoming Government could save at least £1 billion by realigning the troubled NHS computer programme and boosting its performance, according to a detailed new study from a leading health think-tank. 2020health.org have compiled an unprecedented dossier gleaned from extensive interviews with key participants of what has worked, what should be stopped and what next.

The study, “Fixing NHS IT – an Action Plan for a New Government” puts forward a detailed rescue plan for the £12 billion National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT), launched with a great fanfare by Tony Blair in 2002 but now mired in cost over-runs and a four-year delay.

The NPfIT was supposed to link 30,000 GPs to nearly 300 hospitals across England, providing NHS staff with instant access to the medical notes of patients at every stage of diagnosis, treatment and discharge. It consisted of national infrastructure, an NHS Spine, integrated with local care records services.

MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee warned last year that key parts of the programme – the biggest civilian IT project in the world – were on the brink of failure and that the revised completion date of 2014-15 (four years behind schedule) looks over-optimistic.

This study, conducted by 2020health.org and written by NHS IT expert John Cruickshank, warns of a risk of “hiatus” for NHS IT after the election expected in May. It is based on confidential interviews with NHS officials and the private contractors tasked with upgrading NHS IT.

"The report’s starting point is to state that getting NHS IT right is critical for a new government. IT-enabled new ways of working are essential to enable the NHS to meet ever-growing health demands whilst also achieving its productivity targets and improved outcomes.

The study then does a rigorous analysis of NPfIT, and dispassionately considers its successes and failures. It argues that the perception that the problem can be fixed simply by axing the Programme and localising everything will only makes things worse,” said John Cruickshank.

Instead, the approach it recommends is to accelerate the benefits from exploiting the new NHS infrastructure, while halting or redirecting failing parts of the programme. It puts forward 30 detailed recommendations for action, all to be executed within 12 months of a new government taking office.

“We believe the recommendations in totality will save more than £1 billion and lead to significantly improved patient outcomes,” said Julia Manning, Chief Exec of 2020health.org.

Key recommendations:

• Future national IT approaches should only be done in limited circumstances. Trusts should be free to set their own direction to meet local clinical priorities, provided nationally agreed standards are met.

• A course of national action and investment is needed in areas where IT is currently under-exploited in the NHS, notably telemedicine and collaborative technology, which are a focus in other countries such as in Scandinavia

• Those elements of NPfIT which are a valuable platform for the future should be developed. These include N3 (the NHS broadband network), PACS (the capture and communication of radiological and other images) and the Electronic Prescription Service.

• Action should be concentrated on addressing the care records service in acute hospitals where the failings are greatest. A series of tests are proposed and a plan of action should the model fail those tests.

• The roll-out of the controversial Summary Care Records project (part of the NHS Spine) should be halted and subjected to review.

• A radical reorientation and downsizing of the central IT organisation is needed for it to become more transparent and accountable to the NHS, in combination with a consolidation and strengthening of IT provision at the local level.

 

Notes to Editors

2020health is an independent, grass-roots, think tank for health and technology interested in realistic solutions.

What we do
• Identifying issues and bringing informed people together to create solutions.
• Demonstrating how to improve health and quality of life through successful commissioning, competition and technology.
• Exploring the benefits of public and private cooperation.
• Examining the consequences of healthcare decisions on society, lifestyle and culture.
Why
• Ensure policy reflects grass-roots wisdom and experience of professionals.
• Broaden involvement and debate on key concerns to give value for money.
• Build on the achievements of the present to create the vision for improved healthcare.
How
• Combining the experience of practitioners, experts and policy makers in the public and private sector through projects, research publications and debates.
• Restoring trust, confidence and responsibility to professionals and enabling people to have their say through active participation and networking.
• Publicising our work through the press, events and meetings with policy makers.
Where
We are based in the heart of Westminster.
Current Interests
Commissioning; Mental health; Elderly care; Work and wellbeing; NHS IT; Value-based pricing; Long term conditions; Health and social care integration.
 

2020health Report Fixing NHS IT: A Plan of Action for a New Government

Fixing NHS IT: A Plan of Action for a New Government

The report, 'Fixing NHS IT' puts forward a detailed rescue plan for the £12 billion National Programme for Information Technology (NPfIT). Recommendations are made for how to save £1bn and get IT working better for patients. read on Fixing NHS IT: A Plan of Action for a New Government