NHS: We still have national IT

The NHS will retain some nationally managed IT as part of its forthcoming Informatics Strategy, even if local bodies are given more control of decision making.

That is according to Alan Perkins, NHS Connecting for Health resources director, who told the Government Efficiency Expo event in London that trusts' needs would be assessed and national systems would be created when necessary.

National management was also vital for handling the contracts on the disastrous National Programme for IT. Some of the contracts will still run until nearly 2017, he said.

The news comes as the Department of Health said it was in discussions with CSC for a large settlement over the National Programme. The agreement is likely to see the company claw back a substantial part of its costs by being guaranteed the opportunity to roll out its system in a fixed number of trusts, it has been speculated.

Perkins said that to keep an element of national management, with a priority for local management in most cases, was vital. "We are going to make information available widely," he said. "Where there is a need for a national solution, we will have one."

The Department of Health is due to publish its Informatics Strategy later this year, setting the latest direction for its IT.

The strategy would have a key focus on local health systems and control, Perkins said, even if some systems were considered nationally. It would also focus on interoperability and standards.

"We've got to stimulate a vibrant health marketplace, rather than forcing national solutions on people as a matter of course," he said. "Each health trust will be responsible for understanding and explaining their own requirements and they may collaborate with other trusts to sign frameworks."

The funding model to support the trusts was "still under development", he said.

The Department of Health is deconstructing the prior setup of Connecting for Health, which managed the National Programme. "There will be a small Department of Health team with policy oversight, an NHS Commissioning Board which leads on strategy, an IT systems delivery group [to focus on successful deployment] and an NHS Information Centre [as a central resource]," Perkins said.

"This is a clear separation of policy, strategy and delivery."

Asked why national bodies would remain prominent when local trusts were to set their own IT, Perkins answered that there needed to be "a notion of strategic control through a national body". This was also vital as some of the national programme contracts would run until 2016 to 2017.

Regarding the proposed settlement with CSC, Perkins said the deal was an "improved settlement currently agreed on an informal basis".

A new contract would be signed between the Department of Health and CSC "in the spring", he said, offering the heavily-delayed iSoft Lorenzo system to trusts in the north, Midlands and east of England.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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