Wednesday, June 21, 2006

UK NAO report on NPfIT in the NHS

UK National Audit Office press notice - National Programme for IT in the NHS

Following last Friday's release of the long awaited report from the National Audit Office on the National Programme for IT in the NHS, it has been interesting to watch how the media have commented.

The report itself was remarkably upbeat about the progress of NPfIT in placing massive contracts with IT suppliers and software development, relating to overspending and timesclaes - although it did contain some crticisms of the progress in involving clinicians.

E-Health Insider suggested that NAO gives positive account of NHS CfH reporting that " According to the eagerly awaited National Audit Office report published today the DH and NHS Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for the NHS IT project, have “made substantial progress” but the project remains very much a work in progress and it is too early to judge success.

The report confirms that areas of the programme are running late including Choose and Book already a year overdue, and the NHS Care Records Service so far two years late." However some of the comments from users of the site are less complimentary!

The BBC News story Major NHS IT upgrade hit by delay included comments that "The NAO report said that, while the costs of delays were being borne by private sector companies contracted to provide services, their impact could dent confidence in the programme." and sugested "NHS staff did not feel involved in the implementation of the programme - with three out of 10 unaware it was happening."

The Guardian report Cost of NHS IT programme 'to double' focused on costs, suggesting was news was expected; "The cost of setting up the vast NHS IT programme is expected to be double the government's original estimate, parliament's spending watchdog said today. But the National Audit office's cost projection is likely to be a relief for the Department of Health, as the cost of the project has previously been predicted to top £20bn."

Kable also commented on costs in it's report NAO says NPfIT costs £12.4bn and also carried the 3 areas in which development is needed; "The report also identifies three key areas which CfH, the NHS and the Department of Health (DoH) need to address in implementing the programme. One is to ensure that IT suppliers continue to deliver systems that meet the needs of the NHS to agreed timescales. It urges CfH to impose contractual penalties on suppliers who fail to meet schedules, as it has already done in some cases, and even to terminate contracts if necessary. Secondly, it needs to ensure NHS organisations play a full part in implementing the systems. Thirdly, it depends on engaging NHS staff who have shown significant concerns about the speed and clarity of the programme. Success depends on "winning the support of the NHS staff and the public in making the best use of systems to improve service", and the DoH and CfH "should provide greater clarity to organisations and staff in the NHS as to when the different elements of the programme will be delivered".

The times story Bugs in the system covered the report succicntly in it's sub head "The world’s biggest IT project has yet to prove it is good for the health".

The Telegraph "True cost of delayed NHS system is £12.4bn" also focused on cost.

Computer Weekly NHS National Programme for IT faces ‘significant challenges’ suggested that a key outcome of the report was a call for "the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health to offer greater clarity to the NHS on the programme’s timescales".

TechWorld ut a more positive gloss on it within it's story An NHS IT success story focusing on PACS - Picture Archiving and Communications Systems.

Tola Sargeant in a piece for Ovum summarised the report as UK's healthcare programme passes its check-up

It will be interesting to see further fall out from the report and over the next few months which of the predictions come true.

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