The Work Foundation has urged caution that the Chancellor’s plans to save money through IT projects in the NHS and in other government organisations could be flawed due to a general lack of IT skills by end-users and managers.

“The public sector does not have an encouraging track record in the procurement and use of IT,” writes David Coats, the Work Foundation’s associate director of policy. “Large skill gaps may need to be filled before the Gershon efficiency gains can be fully realised."

Gershon had argued that the NHS could save a great deal of money through procurement of IT. However, Coats believes that procurement is another area that needs a lot of work, and that government departments suffer from “a relatively weak skill base" in this area.

The report contends that the “skill gap” needs to be addressed in order to deliver promised savings. “Public service organisations will need a comprehensive strategy to link organisational goals to training and development and HR policies. They will need to plug skills gaps in procurement, people management and change management."

“The pressure is for immediate improvement over the SR04 (Spending Review 2004) period and managers will be under great pressure to make rapid decisions. The risk of poorly configured and badly implemented cuts exercises should not be underestimated. This is a potential threat to the achievement of the government’s service improvement objectives."

The report, “Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency – The Gershon Review: Public Service Efficiency and the Management of Change", was written in response to yesterday’s Gershon review of public sector spending. It welcomes the reforms, but warns of potential problems with implementation through lack of skills, industrial relations, change management and measurement of productivity.

The Work Foundation is a think-tank and organisation that counts among its aims to “help anyone committed to making UK workplaces better and more productive places” and to celebrate “best practice in management and spokespeople for competitive, sustainable business." It was originally formed in 1918 as The Industrial Society. The website is here.