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NHS IT programme in difficulty


16 May, 2007  

An independent academic study of staff views of the progress of the NHS IT programme locally has found that financial deficits and poor communication continue to hamper its successful implementation. It also found that continuing delays could constitute a growing risk to patient safety.
 
In this follow-up to their initial study published in 2005, researchers from King’s College London, Imperial College London, University of Bristol and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine interviewed a range of key senior NHS staff in financial, IT and clinical roles. As with the 2005 study, the respondents feel that local financial deficits are having a serious impact on the success of the programme. This new survey found that, as financial problems continue to worsen, local managers cannot focus on implementing the system because of competing financial priorities and uncertainties about the programme.
 
Some people feel disempowered and frustrated because decisions are being made by this agency and local IT service providers without consulting key NHS staff.   
 
Professor Naomi Fulop, of the School of Social Science and Public Policy at King’s College London, comments: “We have found that NHS staff support the goals of this programme and believe in the benefits of IT modernisation. But they have a number of serious concerns, in particular potential risks to patient safety. It’s crucial that patient information is stored and accessed via a robust, secure IT system. While the delays continue, IT networks are becoming outdated and there is a real risk that patient care could be compromised.”
 
The NHS IT programme is the largest civilian IT programme in the world with projected expenditure of over £12 billion.