NHS IT system ‘means fewer patients seen’

By politics.co.uk staff

The chief executive of a major London hospital has broken ranks to attack the government’s new IT system for the NHS.

Andrew Way, of the Royal Free Hospital said technical problems to the system had forced the hospital to spend £10 million on it, and resulted in fewer patients being seen.

The comments are significant because the Royal Free Hospital was one of the trial hospitals where the government was piloting the project.

But the pilot appears to have done nothing for the highly contentious project’s reputation.

Mr Way explained how the cost of repairing the system’s problems sucked funds from investments in new equipment, while technical glitches had quadrupled the amount of time it took to book out-patients’ meeting.

The hospital had been forced to hire an extra 40 admin staff to cope with the extra workload imposed on the hospital by the system.

“I have personally apologised for the decision to implement the system before we were really clear about what we were going to receive,” he said.

“I had been led to believe it would all work.”

The £12 billion project, which is already massively delayed, is intended to modernise patients’ relationship with the NHS, especially the booking system. But the price has far exceeded expectations, it is being delivered very late, and early reports are less than optimistic.

Nigel Edwards, of the NHS Confederation, which represents many health service organisations, said: “This isn’t the first hospital to have very significant problems with implementation.

“Hospitals need to be able to tailor what they have got to their needs, rather than being given this one-size-fits-all solution.”

The Liberal Democrats said it was time to scrap the system.

“This adds to the mounting evidence of the failure of the costly and overblown NHS IT system,” said Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb.

“It has caused massive extra cost to the NHS and to individual hospitals, and is a source of constant frustration for doctors and other health professionals.”

The Tories also siezed on the comments as a vindication of their opposition to the scheme.

“The government refuses to acknowledge the problems in its one-size-fits-all IT system which has left hospitals like the Royal Free struggling to cope with costly systems that do not meet the needs of doctors, nurses and their patients,” said shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien.

“Will Labour ever sort out the mess they have created with the NHS supercomputer and the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money they are pouring into it?”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Many elements of the programme are complete, and patients and clinicians are now beginning to see the benefits these systems bring to improve patient care.”

The spokesperson said the department would learn from any mistakes highlighted in the pilot project.