NHS IT programme 'may produce camel not racehorse'

aviendaThis was the assessment given by a Fujitsu consultant at last week's eyeforhealthcare conference (Successful Implementation of NPfIT 2007) chaired by Avienda managing director, Ben Stanberry, and widely reported in yesterday's Computer Weekly magazine and the national press.

The warning from Andrew Rollerson, Fujitsu's healthcare consulting practice lead, came as a part of a presentation on the challenges involved in the NHS's ambitious £20 billion IT programme. Fujitsu is one of the main firms involved in the project after winning a £896 million contract to deliver systems in the South of England.

In his speech, Mr Rollerson voiced concern at the direction of the NHS programme and the lack of vision on how the health service can make best use of new technology. "What we are trying to do is run an enormous programme with the techniques that we are absolutely familiar with for running small projects. And it isn't working. And it isn't going to work," he told his audience. "Unless we do some serious thinking about that — about the challenges of scale and how you scale up to an appropriate size — then I think we're out on a limb."

Mr Rollerson added: "There is a belief that the national programme is somehow going to propel transformation in the NHS simply by delivering an IT system. Nothing could be further from the truth. A vacuum, a chasm, is opening up."

The Eyeforhealthcare conference at which Mr Rollerson was speaking was co-chaired by Ben Stanberry, managing director of Avienda - an e-health consulting firm - who like Fujitsu's Andrew Rollerson also delivered a presentation which was critical, in part, of the NHS IT programme and called for lessons to be learned from successful health IT programmes in Canada and Australia.

Speaking after the conference, Mr Stanberry said that Mr Rollerson had been "refreshingly honest and definitely speaking in the best interests of the programme."

"A good consultant is always honest with their client and that means they have to be neutral and objective about the challenges involved in achieving the changes the client wants." said Mr Stanberry. "Andrew Rollerson was very much reviewing the IT programme from the point of view of the massive organisational and cultural changes that still need to take place if the NHS is to realise all the benefits and opportunities that single, shared electronic records and booking systems will create. Everything that Andrew had to say was motivated by a deep commitment to the NHS and a genuine desire to see the IT programme deliver lasting improvements in patient care."

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