NHS admits failings in IT records plan
The National Health Service’s £12.7bn scheme to create an electronic patient record will “no longer provide the comprehensive solution” originally promised, says a top NHS executive.
Until now, health ministers and officials have acknowledged that the world’s biggest civilian information technology project is running four to five years late, and have said they want to make £600m savings on the £4bn-plus worth of contracts held by CSC and BT to deliver it.
Up to now, however, no one has conceded that the programme will fail to deliver everything that was promised back in 2003 when the contracts were signed.
Following a revamped deal with BT – the London supplier, which has cut £112m or about 12 per cent off its contract – Ruth Carnall, the chief executive of the London strategic health authority, has said the spending reduction means “it will no longer be possible to provide the comprehensive solution that was anticipated in 2003”.
Not all NHS organisations in London will now receive the software needed to deliver the records, Ms Carnall makes clear in a letter to London chief executives.
Meanwhile, Christine Connelly, the health department’s chief information officer, has said that only about half of London’s 32 big acute trusts will now get the full solution. Others will be able to add clinical systems to existing patient administration systems.
In place of a dedicated means of sharing records across hospitals, and between hospitals and primary care – a key goal of the programme – London will have to rely on the national summary care record, Ms Carnall says. However, this contains little other than allergies and current medication, and does not yet carry referral or discharge information.
On top of this, the Tories have said they will scrap the national record if they win the election.
BT will no longer have to deliver new systems to London’s ambulance service or GP practices. And London can afford to pay for Map of Medicine, a decision support tool for treating patients, for only one more year, says Ms Carnall.
In much of the country, installations in acute hospitals are stalled after CSC missed a deadline to get its solution running at Morecambe Bay NHS Trust. The supplier risks being fired, but is likely to sign a similar, more restricted, deal if it does hit a new deadline for a successful installation.
Glyn Hayes, president of the UK Council for Health Informatics Professions, said it had been clear for some time that the programme was to be reduced. “But this is the first official admission that there are things it will not do that it was intended to do.”
It was unclear, he said, whether the Conservatives would in fact scrap the national record if they won. “But if they do, it knocks a hole in London’s plans,” because without it the capital had no easy means of transferring patient information between settings.
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