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09-09-2010 | General practice | Article

NHS IT programme to be scaled back


Department of Health

The National Programme for IT is to be scaled back in order to save £700 million, the Department of Health (DoH) has announced.

In a statement, it says that the current centralised approach is no longer needed and instead will be switched to a locally-led, "plural" system of IT procurement. Thus rather than completely replacing in-house hospital software, individual hospitals will be able to buy in new systems as appropriate, provided they can be integrated with the existing national structure.

Aspects of the national system that are now established, such as Choose and Book and the Electronic Prescription Service, will remain in place, while the Summary Care Record is being reviewed separately.

The money saved will contribute to the proposed £20 billion overall savings to the National Health Service (NHS) over the next 4 years, according to the DoH.

Health Minister, Simon Burns said: "Improving IT is essential to delivering a patient-centred NHS. But the nationally imposed system is neither necessary nor appropriate to deliver this."

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Chaand Nagpaul of the British Medical Association's GPs Committee said: "Giving NHS organisations more choice of IT systems makes sense, but we also need to be aware of the problems that could arise from a more localised approach.

"The provision and experience of IT for clinicians on the ground is likely to vary according to the level of support and resources available locally… There still needs to be some central accountability to ensure consistent and equitable delivery, manage local implementation, avoid wasteful duplication of effort, and support local decision making. For example, a nationally accredited list of systems would be helpful."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price