4. August 2011 12:51
The national programme for electronic patient records within the NHS is “unworkable” and should be abandoned, the Government’s Public Accounts Committee has said.
This verdict follows the decision to make the NHS IT programme dependent on multiple providers, with contracts negotiated locally, and the opting out of London GPs and hospitals from the scheme.
The Committee cited ongoing delays, lack of value from suppliers and existing problems with implementation as reasons for their view. It argued that having spent £2.7bn on developing an e-records system, the DH should invest the remainder of the £7bn budget elsewhere.
The aim of e-records was to make patient information more readily transferable between clinical centres and to facilitate the development and implementation of healthcare IT systems.
The £11.4bn NHS IT programme was launched in 2002 with the aim of improving the use of technology within the NHS. It has achieved the uptake of digital imaging (PACS) systems across the UK.
The e-records scheme, which aimed to give every patient an electronic file for use whenever they were treated in the NHS, was described the Committee as “a worthwhile aim” that was “beyond the capacity” of the NHS.
The Committee identified three problems: lack of value obtained from suppliers (e.g. BT charging £9m per site for services that NHS sites outside the scheme were obtaining for £2m); delays (the scheme is currently six years behind schedule) and problems with e-records currently in use.
Committee chairman Margaret Hodge concluded that “trying to create a one-size-fits-all system in the NHS has proven to be unworkable,” but that ending the national scheme might enable local NHS organisations to purchase more effective systems.
Electronic patient records will certainly play a part in the NHS of the near future – but the prospect of an integrated national system is in doubt.