The National Audit Office reported to Parliament today the results of its examination of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.
The Programme’s scope, vision and complexity are wider and more extensive than any ongoing or planned healthcare IT programme in the world and it represents the largest single IT investment in the UK to date. It is designed to deliver important financial, patient safety and service benefits.
According to today’s report by head of the NAO Sir John Bourn, the main implementation phase of the Programme and the realisation of benefits are mainly a matter for the future and it will therefore be some time before it is possible fully to assess the value for money of the Programme, as this will depend on the progress made in developing and using the systems it is intended to provide. It is therefore important for taxpayers and patients that this investment pays off, and for the Programme to be well managed and open to public scrutiny. Accordingly, the NAO has examined the progress to date in delivering the systems against the original plans and the costs of the Programme; the steps taken by the Department, NHS Connecting for Health and the NHS to deliver the Programme; how the IT systems have been procured; and how the NHS is preparing to use the systems delivered.
The NAO found that the Department and NHS Connecting for Health have made substantial progress with the Programme. Successful implementation of the Programme nevertheless continues to present significant challenges for the Department, NHS Connecting for Health and the NHS, especially in three key areas:
- Ensuring that the IT suppliers continue to deliver systems that meet the needs of the NHS, and to agreed timescales without further slippage.
- Ensuring that NHS organisations can and do fully play their part in implementing the Programme’s systems.
- Winning the support of NHS staff and the public in making the best use of the systems to improve services.