The Department of Health is to work with Intellect to stimulate the market for NHS IT, following this morning’s announcement that the national programme is to be “dismantled.”
A press release issued by the DH this morning says that a new partnership will “explore ways to stimulate a market place that will no longer exclude small and medium sized companies from participating in significant government healthcare IT projects.”
In response, Intellect issued a statement saying that it wanted the DH to focus on helping the market to deliver interoperable systems and to develop a "central focus on clinical information sharing in the NHS Information Strategy."
To support these moves, Intellect has published a paper - 'We should talk - interoperability and the NHS' - setting out a number of recommendations for helping the NHS to share clinical information more effectively.
The paper's principal authors, Paul Cooper and Martin Whittaker, said that NHS Connecting for Health, suppliers and trusts should work together to improve the Interoperability Toolkit programme; which has just reached its second iteration.
They argued that for the benefits of ITK to be realised, the NHS will need to make it a central plank of its promised information and technology strategies.
They said it would also need to "evangelise" the benefits to business and clinical leaders, and to engage with suppliers so it becomes an "encouragement to succeed, not a barrier to entry."
The managing director for informatics at the DH, Katie Davis, said that the development of a “vibrant market place” was one of the key tasks to be undertaken now the government has underlined its commitment to stop the centralised delivery of IT “unless there is a single, clear requirement across the NHS.”
She said the DH was also undertaking a full review of its informatics applications and services to make sure that the IT functions it continues to carry out are compatible with the government’s announcement.
She said the work it will continue to carry out, and a framework for how IT support will be provided to the NHS “as it modernises”, will be published later this autumn.
The government announced that it would “axe” the National Programme for IT in the NHS in briefings to Conservative-supporting papers overnight.
However, the announcement substantially repeats the direction of travel set by health minister Simon Burns last summer.
Following his own review, Burns said the government would be retaining some NPfIT projects as NHS services, but that it would be looking to give regions and trusts more control over their own IT, while "honouring" the programme's major contracts.
This morning's news was welcomed by Matthew Swindells, vice president of Cerner, who said: “It is clear that the national programme has had many challenges since its inception.
"We, for a long time now, have been calling for a radical rethink, most recently in the government’s Information Revolution consultation.
“We look forward to working with the government to ensure that successes within the programme - such as Millennium and Choose and Book - are extended, that clinical engagement in IT is increased, while suggesting alternatives for those areas of the programme that have failed to deliver.”
In a statement, BT, the provider of the N3 network and the local service provider for London and parts of the South, also welcomed the MPA's recognition of N3 and projects such as Choose and Book.
"We support the move from centrally led to locally and clinically led healthcare," the statement added. "We have already changed our approach to respond to this and were the first supplier to do so."
BT said its approach was reflected in two successful Millennium go-lives this summer and the roll-out of RiO in London and the South.
The announcement was also welcomed by CSC, the local service provider for the North, Midlands and East, which said: "CSC fully supports the direction outlined for NHS IT.
"It firmly believes that the significantly modified, more flexible approach we have proposed to drive faster deployment and support more localised decision making will enable the UK government to reap the benefits required from past investments.
"We are continuing to work closely with NHS as the programme moves to a more modular approach, whilst ensuring that benefits are increasingly realised by clinicians and front line staff, enabling them to deliver better patient care and build a more efficient NHS."
Early coverage of the government's announcement that NPfIT is to be "dismantled" has focused on the £12 billion total cost of the programme and the number of nurses and other NHS services this could have bought.
However, Swindells stressed that investment in IT was essential if the NHS was to make £20 billion efficiency savings over the next four years to bridge the gap between flat funding and rising demand, while delivering better quality for patients.
An earlier version of this story said that the DH and Intellect would be forming a new trade association. This was a misreading of the DH's press release.
Katie Davis will be speaking at EHI Live 2011 at the NEC in Birmingham on 8 November. Registration for the conference and free exhbition is open now.
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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