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MPs 'sceptical' about DH's vision for a paperless NHS

It is doubtful the Department of Health can deliver on its ‘paperless NHS’ pledge by 2018 given it has not even set aside a specific budget, a committee of MPs has said.

The report from the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, an influential group of MPs, called into question the DH’s ability to meet their target of a paperless NHS by 2018 following the failures of the National Programme for IT, a framework for NHS IT systems that was dismantled in 2011.

It was found that most of the benefits of the programme are yet to be delivered, and there is a risk that some of these benefits may never materialise.

The report said given the failures of the previous IT programme, and the DH’s failure to put aside a clear plan, estimate costs and a budget, MPs were ‘sceptical’ this could be achieved.

GP practices have been charged with allowing patients to view their medical record, book an appointment, offer email access and order a prescription online by 2015, and have a vision for a ‘paperless NHS’ by 2018.

NHS England are also introducing a new e-referrals service to replace Choose and Book, which they want 100% of practices to use, but have said they will not make compulsory.

The report said: ‘After the sorry history of the National Programme, we are sceptical that the Department can deliver its vision of a paperless NHS by 2018.

‘Making the NHS paper less will involve further significant investment in IT and business transformation. However, the Department has not even set aside a specific budget for this purpose. As with the National Programme, it will be important to balance the need for standardisation across the NHS with the desire for local ownership and flexibility.’

It recommended that in order to deliver a paperless NHS, the DH needs to draw on lessons from the National Programme and ‘develop a clear plan, including estimates of costs and benefits and a realistic timetable’.

Mr Richard Bacon, a member of the committee, said: ‘Given the Department’s track record with the National Programme, it is very hard to believe that the paperless NHS towards which the Department is working has much chance of being achieved by the target date of 2018.’

 

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