08 August 2005 The £6.2 billion pound IT project to revolutionize the way NHS medical records are stored could be undermined because staff have become demoralised by a lack of consultation, according to recent reports.
The Connecting for Health programme – formerly the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the NHS – is supposed to provide an electronic patient record and appointment booking system for the UK’s health service.
But according to a report in the British Medical Journal, front-line staff feel “disengaged”, following a perceived lack of communications and sparse consultation over the project.
The report cites research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with senior clinical and non-clinical staff.
“The lack of engagement and consultation with the medical profession was wholly inadequate in the early stages of development but NHS Connecting for Health has more recently made significant progress in its efforts to involve NHS staff,” said Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association (BMA).
“Large-scale public IT projects do not have a good track record in the UK and so it is paramount that the NHS learns the lessons of history and engages wherever possible with the front-line staff who will be using the new systems to deliver better patient care,” she added.
Dr Jane Hendy, one of the lead researchers, said improving communication with health professionals was vital to the eventual success of the high-profile project. A major communications campaign is due to start in September 2005.
In a statement, Connecting for Health said: “We recognise the importance of communicating at the right time in advance of IT systems and services being implemented in NHS organisations. We are working hard with NHS colleagues to do this. This will inform and educate both NHS staff and the public about the changes and benefits that the new technologies will bring.”