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Conservatives urged to rethink IT reform

Eight out of 10 UK doctors and NHS IT experts are opposed to scrapping the National Programme for IT in the NHS

Eight out of 10 UK doctors and NHS IT experts are opposed to scrapping the National Programme for IT in the NHS, according to a wide-ranging survey into views on NHS IT published by Doctors.net.uk.

The Conservative Party, which is meeting this week in Manchester, is committed to scrapping much of the programme and renegotiating its multi-billion pound central contracts. 

While a third of those surveyed wanted to see the programme scrapped, citing concerns about its 'massive costs' and its being 'of no benefit to patient care', eight out of ten respondents preferred to see it reformed, with greater clinical input, less political interference and fewer centralised contracts. 

86 per cent and 76 per cent of doctors and IT experts from NHS organisations and the independent sector, respectively, also disagreed fundamentally with the Conservatives' proposal to let private companies hold patient records. Privacy was one of the greatest concerns among doctors (60 per cent), and fragmentation of records was one of the chief concerns of IT managers (29 per cent).

85 per cent of respondents supported the NHS' continued development of its own personal health record platform, HealthSpace. Hospital doctors were found to regard online medical records and digital systems for imaging and laboratory tests as being the most important for improvements in care. GPs were most keen to see technology improve the quality and speed of information they receive from hospitals when patients are discharged back to their care, and healthcare ICT professionals were keen to see the development of e-prescribing systems. 

Dr Tim Ringrose, managing director of medical communities at Doctors.net.uk, said: "Both doctors and managers are keen to see IT used to improve patient care and they think this is best achieved with a centralised rather than a fragmented system.

"The current programmes have not delivered what was promised and reform is certainly required.  Involving clinicians in the design and implementation of the systems is the best way to ensure that IT is used to improve healthcare.  The challenge for the next government is to unlock all of that know-how within the NHS and develop a system that is both fully fit for purpose and doesn't cost a fortune."

Lyn Whitfield, managing editor of E-Health Insider, said: "The national programme has come in for such heavy criticism that it is a surprise to see it being given any support, yet the clear message of this survey is that managers and doctors want to see it reformed, not scrapped. There is also a desire for the NHS to finally deliver the good, clinical IT that will improve quality and efficiency as the NHS moves into difficult financial times. 

"If the Conservatives think that large chunks of the national programme can be scrapped and its work just handed over to US software companies, then doctors and managers are clearly saying that it will not work – and that it could be very bad news for patients."

5th October 2009

From: Healthcare

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