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Government needs to invest in patient record sharing IT, says auditor

NHS Wales faces ‘tough decisions’ on funding and priorities to deliver the electronic patient record system in reasonable time, the Welsh auditor general has said.

An NHS Informatics report from the Audit Office, published earlier this week, noted ‘significant delays’ and ‘key weaknesses’ in the current IT management.

There is no funding plan or clear timeframe, with NHS internal disagreements between prioritising local or national systems, and lagging behind private healthcare, it said.

In 2016, NHS Wales estimated it would need £484m on top of existing budgets to deliver the informatics plan over five years.

Many GP surgeries have already switched to new systems, however, widespread delays are creating general frustration, with still more work and finance needed before the full rollout, the report said.

The Audit Office said the Welsh Government must decide if and how it will provide extra funding to deliver the informatics system, which it says will deliver better patient outcomes and save money and time in the long term.

Auditor general Huw Vaughan-Thomas said: ‘All parts of NHS Wales, including the Welsh Government, need to take some tough decisions, particularly on funding, priorities and enabling clinicians to have the time and space to lead on this agenda.’

The report y claimed that there was a lack of independent scrutiny and need for accountability in NHS Wales Informatics Services (NWIS). It said progress reports were ‘partial’ and ‘overly positive’, with selective reporting ignoring major caveats.

Mr Vaughan-Thomas said: ‘Unless it addresses the issues identified in my report, the NHS risks further frustration amongst frontline staff and ending up with systems that are already outdated by the time they are completed.’