Scottish NHS IT needs reform and investment

NHS Scotland needs to increase its budget substantially and form a clearer national strategy on IT, involving clinicians and managers, according to a report from Audit Scotland.

But the report has been criticised by GPC Scotland for saying little about GPASS.

GPASS, the practice IT system most widely used in Scotland, has been criticised by GP leaders for years as unusable and even unsafe (GP, 14 April), and a raft of motions have been passed condemning it at LMC conferences since 2002.

Dr Stuart Scott, deputy chairman of GPC Scotland, said the Audit Scotland report contained little that was new and he was ‘surprised that it did not go into GPASS’.

Dr Scott said the report showed ‘no progress worth talking about’. However, he said that GPC Scotland was expecting a report from consultants Deloitte in the coming weeks, which would look at the system’s failings and could prompt action.

‘I have no idea what is in that report yet,’ he said. ‘But I imagine it is not good news because the release date keeps being put back.

‘I can’t see a resolution to the situation until it does come out but we will see what happens after that.’ The Audit Scotland report said that there would need to be a ‘huge cultural shift’, if Scottish IT is to keep up with health systems south of the border.

The report says that the Scottish Executive’s health department also needs to improve its funding arrangements by setting clear budgets, identifying expected benefits and monitoring IT projects.

‘There is a significant amount of money spent on IM&T in the NHS in Scotland,’ it says.

‘At least £100 million was budgeted for 2006/07. This is an important area of investment to improve technical support for the health service.

‘The challenge is to ensure that it represents value for money and delivers the information that people need to provide services to patients.’

Change needed

  • Closer monitoring of existing IT projects.
  • Investment must be more clearly linked to need.
  • Increase professional involvement in designing IT programmes.
  • Scottish Executive must encourage a major cultural shift in the NHS.

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