The future of NHS IT agency, Connecting for Health, remains unclear as 2007 ends, with the Department of Health saying that arrangements have yet to be finalised.

The DH says “Interim management arrangements are being finalised and an announcement will be made in the next few weeks.”

The uncertanty extends to the exact status of Richard Granger, the head of the agency who had been due to depart by year end. It now looks as though he may continue at the helm into the beginning of 2008.

Accounts differ as to how hands-on Richard Granger has been in recent months, though EHI did have a confirmed sighting in Leeds last week.

New IM&T planning guidance issued by the DH this week, meanwhile, makes clear the future of health service IM&T is now expected to be based on local planning, ownership and delivery, with PCTs, trusts and Strategic Health Authorities now expected to take the lead.

An indication of the direction of travel comes in the language and acronyms now being used. The new guidance, issued as part of the NHS Operating Framework 2008-09, no longer talks about the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the once familiar singular, but instead refers to the Programme for IT (PfIT), comprised of the NPfIT and Local Programmes for IT (LPfIT).

The contract reset negotiations underway with each of the three CfH-appointed local service providers (LSPs) are understood to have not yet concluded.

Asked by E-Health Insider whether Granger would still be departing by year end, a DH spokesperson said: "Richard Granger has done a great job in leading the National Programme for IT, which has delivered new and innovative systems that have helped NHS staff to transform the services they provide for patients. Interim management arrangements are being finalised and an announcement will be made in the next few weeks.

The DH spokesperson went on to add that the review, set up by NHS CEO David Nicholson, on how the NHS uses information to improve patient care was underway: “This is not a review of Connecting for Health or the National Programme for IT, but the contribution of both will be included within this wider work, as recommended by [health minister] Ara Darzi in his NHS Next Stage Review.

“In the light of these developments, David now thinks the time is right to look closely at what skills and management arrangements we need to take Connecting for Health forward. We expect to be able to outline this shortly. In the meantime, Connecting for Health continue to do an excellent job in leading the Programme."