The Conservative party has confirmed it is currently undertaking an independent review of the National Programme for IT.
Shadow health minister, Stephen O’Brien, had initially announced in an opposition debate last June: “If the government do not agree to a full and independent review as a result of our call, we will, as a matter of urgency, set one up ourselves.”
He added: “It is because we believe in the positive potential benefits of IT in the NHS, implemented correctly, for the good of patients and the morale and professionalism of all staff. We want to see a contrast with the government’s performance to date: we want to see the programme put right, because that is the right thing to do.”
The government has consistently dismissed calls for a review into the National Programme for IT and re-iterated this at a debate on the health select committee report on electronic patient records in Westminster last Thursday.
Challenging the Conservatives, to see if they had stuck to their word on reviewing NHS IT, Charlotte Atkins, Labour MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, asked how the review was going.
Jeremy Wright, Conservative MP for Rugby & Kenilworth, answered: “It is under way, and I am sure that the honourable lady will be fascinated to hear the results. However, it should not be up to Her Majesty’s opposition to do that work; it should have been done by a government.
“There is still an opportunity – if the minister takes it – to engage in the process, because I maintain that it is possible to do so while the work on the programme continues.”
However, the MP responsible for NHS IT, Ben Bradshaw, said the government would not join the review, but would make officials available for questioning – something the review had yet to begin doing.
He said: “I am interested to learn that the review that Mr O’Brien promised us at the time of the opposition debate back in June was indeed launched, and we look forward to reading the results with great interest.
“However, I am informed by my officials that there is no indication that any individuals who have detailed knowledge of the area have yet been interviewed, but I am sure that they will be in due course. I am sure that if his party wanted to interview any of the officials in my department or the experts involved, those people would be only too happy to oblige. Perhaps we can involve some members of the select committee as well in helping with the review. ”
A Conservative party spokesperson was unable to provide EHI with information on the aims of the review, its duration, or the members of the review panel at the time of going to press.
Earlier this year, Conservative leader, David Cameron called for more local ownership and innovation in NHS IT echoing earlier calls from shadow health secretary, Andrew Lansley, who used the BBC’s Today Programme to argue that plans for the national database in England holding around 50m records should be replaced by storage on‘local servers with interoperability between them’.