PCT technology failures must not be repeated

A lack of technical expertise in GP consortia may hamper the adoption of technological innovations in the NHS, experts have warned.

PCTs failed to 'ask the right questions' when negotiating contracts for new technologies, speakers at last week's Healthcare Innovation Expo conference in London said.

Henry Potts, senior lecturer on health infomatics at University College London, said such failings stemmed from a lack of technical knowledge at PCT level. He warned that the ability to adopt new technologies, including telehealth and clinical devices, may worsen as the creation of GP consortia breaks the NHS down into smaller units.

Different PCTs had tended to focus on particular aspects of a technology they were looking to adopt, Mr Potts claimed. Some had 'obsessed' about particular aspects, such as patient safety, cost or clinical outcomes, rather than asking a full set of 'correct' questions.

This had led to disparate and limited, regional attempts to adopt new technologies in the NHS, he said.

He warned that without assistance, consortia could follow the same path: 'GP consortia will not have the technical expertise when seeking to adopt technology,' he said.

'What will the support be when they are trying to adopt this technology? How will they ensure value for money?'

Mr Potts said one solution was for consortia to work in partnerships across regions when evaluating technologies or negotiating contracts. Such an approach could also save money through economies of scale, he said.

Other speakers at the event backed calls for NHS organisations to collaborate.

NICE, the NHS National Innovation Centre and Monitor must work together to produce national governance plans to allow faster adoption of new technologies, Mr Potts and Dr Brendan Cooper, a consultant at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, agreed.

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