Hunt backs Wachter plans to realign ‘unrealistic’ IT target date

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he backs Robert Wachter’s independent review into hospital IT and the revised timetable for digitising the NHS.

Dr Wachter’s review noted that the target of ‘paperless by 2020’ should be discarded as “unrealistic”. It said: “The goal is not paperless – it is improvement, facilitated by having information where it’s needed, when it’s needed.”

During his speech at NHS Expo, Dr Wachter said his advisory group set 2023 as a reasonable goal to have robust clinical information systems implemented in all NHS trusts, along with a high degree of interoperability.

“We believe this is ambitious but achievable,” he told delegates.

Yesterday, the Department of Health revealed that 12 global exemplar sites had been identified to drive digital services across the NHS. A recommendation of Dr Wachter’s report had been to deliver funding to groups of trusts at various stages on their digital journey.

By January 2017, his advisory group also wanted to see the confirmation of approximately £42m (1% of the £4.2bn to be spent on digitising the NHS) being allocated to support workforce development and deployment.

Speaking at NHS Expo, Hunt said: “The report is a sobering read, but an important read. I think it is very important how we draw the lessons from what Bob said. The single biggest point Bob makes about how hospital IT systems work is that there is huge variation in the system, just as we know there is huge variation in clinical.

“I think he is absolutely right to say that people will need to go at different speed. A hospital in special measures, which has severe problems with their A&E performance or waiting times, may not be able to invest in a huge IT transformation programme – and we need to recognise that.

“But we need to make sure we have a group of hospitals by the end of this Parliament that have become world class, if you like an ‘Ivy League’ of hospitals. Working with colleagues from NHS England, we have announced that Ivy League – called global exemplars, because our ambition is for them to become global exemplars in the next few years.”

The health secretary added that there will be another group of hospitals, described by Dr Wachter as Group B, who are ready to seriously digitise.

“They might not be quite in the place of the global exemplars but we’ll call them national exemplars, and we will invite hospitals to apply for this status and they will get £5m each, initially, but if they progress they could become global exemplars,” said Hunt.

To support this work, the health secretary discussed the newly announced NHS Digital Academy. “We are going to set up an NHS Digital Academy, based at a UK university, which will be centre of excellence for helping hospitals learn the lessons Bob was talking about,” he said.

“We are launching a competition to find a University partner for the NHS, who can host the NHS Digital Academy.”

Dr Wachter had called for the establishment of a programme designed to rapidly train CCIOs, CIOs, and other healthcare informaticians in executive leadership and informatics. He recommended that the first few “classes” in this intensive 6-12 month training programme should focus on training individual who will work at the trusts in Groups A and B.

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George Brown   09/09/2016 at 15:32

Forget the programme, since the dates put forward don't mean a thing. NHS England have just blown £100M on a handful of relatively technically advanced (in relation to "Paperless NHS"), Trusts and no funding for anyone else. Fruit & Veg market stall holders could have come up with a better strategy than that? NHS England, NHSE, and NHS Information have learned diddly-squat from the NPfIT and been successful in one thing only - killing NHS IT stone dead overnight. Turn the light out last one out.....

Andy   13/09/2016 at 21:50

George what NHS England have done is taken trusts who have demonstrated that they can deploy technology to improve their trusts delivery and have invested in them as vanguards so that the best practices that they are developing can be shared with others as opposed to outsourcing and "Bringing in experience" when its better to tap into the experience already in healthcare IT. Far from killing NHS IT stone dead they are actually giving it a chance!

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