The NHS Modernisation Board has published a mixed progress report on the ten-year NHS modernisation programme. The report highlights continuing difficulties due to limited NHS capacity, old buildings and out of date equipment but paints an upbeat picture of progress on IT.

However, it concludes that extra resources are filtering down to the front line and says that it sees “growing evidence of the money getting through and making a difference." The report stresses that expanding capacity is a long-term process and notes that the ten year strategy for NHS reform is not yet three years old.

One of the areas covered in the report is information technology, one of the key areas, together with staff and buildings and equipment, for additional investment identified by the Wanless Review as vital in order to expand NHS capacity.

The report states “By 2005, patients will have direct experience of information and IT being used to help deliver timely care.”

In a uniformly upbeat assessment of the state of progress on IT the Modernisation Board’s report offers a familiar summary of the main elements of the National NHS IT Programme, providing an overview of its main features and selective targets met.

It notes for instance that 98% of NHS consultants had a desktop PC by September 2002, by which date all GP practices were connected to NHSnet. Increases to broadband capacity are also highlighted as a prerequisite for services like telemedicine.

Key targets not referred to include the NHS’s failure to the Information for Health (IfH) objectives on electronic patient records (EPR), which a third of acute trusts were meant to achieve by April 2002 and all by 2005. Instead the report states that Integrated Care Records Services (ICRS) incorporate both organisation-specific EPRs and the cradle-to-grave Electronic Health Record.

Asked by E-Health Insider for clarification on whether the central IfH target on EPR still apply, the Department of Health said: "Patients will be offered electronic booking of appointments by 2005, and by then the first generation of electronic records will be available. IT will support the frontline delivery of care and treatment, though it will be 2008 before the full array of clinical applications and functionality from electronic records are available in all PCTs and Trusts."

The NHS Modernisation Board is a group of 30 senior health and social care professionals frontline staff, managers and patient representatives set up to advise the Secretary of State on implementing The NHS Plan.