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'Implementation' director appointed

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The Health minister John Hutton, has appointed the head of a health authority to oversee the service implementation of the NHS's National Programme for IT.

Alan Burns, currently chief executive of Trent Strategic Health Authority, will take of the role of Director of Service Implementation for three days a week over the next fifteen months. He will continue in his other job the rest of the time.

The appointment can be seen as a response to the medical community's lukewarm response to the programme, so far. GPs have complained that the government did not consult them sufficiently in the early stages of the project. Medical authorities have also voiced concerns over the security of patient data in many of the systems.

Indeed, Burn's main responsibility will be to sell the NPfIT to the doctors and nurses that will be working with the new systems. "Virtually all of service implementation focuses on communication and empowerment. I want to make the communication and engagement chain work," he said. "I want it to be frontline led so priorities will be set by what the service sends back up the chain."

He explained that while the NPfIT has achieved a lot, what it really needs are the hearts and minds of the NHS staff. He has appointed five 'national clinical champions', experienced and credible men and women that medical professionals will trust, to communicate the aims of the programme to their colleagues.

This communication process will work both ways, Burns says: "[The champions] will have complete knowledge, understanding and influence of, and into, the Programme; and they will liaise closely with the Care Record Development Board".

John Hutton said: "Engaging clinicians and NHS management in planning and preparation for the successful implementation of the National Programme continues to be an important priority." ®

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