Life support for the £11bn NHS IT system has been turned off

The UK government’s decision to accelerate the dismantling of the NHS National Project for IT (NPfIT) came as little surprise to those who have followed the terminally ill project since 2002. But what is the prognosis for the NHS’s badly needed modernisation programme?

Few details have yet been released on how the end of the NPfIT will affect NHS trusts and existing contracts with BT and CSC, but there will be significant changes under the government’s move to a local commissioning-based approach. The previous framework contract under the NPfIT meant just a handful of suppliers dominated this market. There is optimism that the decision could stimulate a more vibrant healthcare market, including greater involvement from SMEs. This could also dovetail into the government’s cloud strategy, with the likes of Google supplying records systems.

Part of the cancellation of the NPfIT means the government is devolving commissioning responsibility to trusts. But as the market fragments into multiple suppliers and multiple procurements, there is a real danger that systems won’t be able to communicate and share patient information – one of the fundamental reasons for electronic healthcare records. The cancellation of the project will likely mean that already cash-strapped trusts will have to dig deep in their pockets to find the cash to deliver their own electronic records systems.

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