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BT claims London NPfIT successes

Acute trusts back on track

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BT has claimed its revised strategy for London is helping to get the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) back on track in acute trusts.

The Commons Health Select Committee heard yesterday that BT's revised strategy to deliver services under the NPfIT to acute hospitals is "proving a success".

BT is the national programme's local service provider for London. Although it has made reasonable progress in some areas, particularly primary care trusts and mental health trusts, delivery to acute hospitals had fallen behind schedule.

To remedy this, the company agreed with Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for delivering the programme, to make changes to its subcontractors. This included the replacement of IDX with the Cerner Millennium solution.

BT said that half of all London's mental health trusts now had new IT systems installed. Newham and Homerton trusts upgraded to Cerner systems late last year and there are plans to go live at Barnet and Chase Farm this summer. Two further deployments are planned later this year.

A key element of BT's revised strategy has been to install products initially as "standalone" deployments and then to integrate them with the cluster-wide solution.

Patrick O'Connell, managing director of BT health, told the MPs: "We try to make sure that the needs of trusts are understood early on. In London we have changed the programme to suit the needs of the trusts and London communities."

Witnesses from the medical research community told the MPs of the need to capitalise on NPfIT, especially the e-patient record, to support their work. Professor Carol Dezateux of the Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics said that being able to create links between e-records to investigate the relationship between pesticides and eye defects in children, for example, was essential.

"We need infrastructures such as those in the Nordic countries," she said. "There is now a recognition in Connecting for Health that use of NPfIT systems for research does matter."

The MPs got a less sanguine view of the programme from Professor Naomi Fulop of King's College London. Fulop, co-author of a study on the implementation of NPfIT published last month in the British Medical Journal, said the e-patient record had been deeply problematic and is seriously behind schedule.

"The detailed record is now two and a half years late. By next year it will be three and a half years late," she said.

There was a growing risk to patients' safety associated with delays to the programme, according to Fulop. Also, local NHS managers are unable to prioritise implementation of the NPfIT because of competing financial priorities and uncertainties about the programme.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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