Doctors’ representatives have called for an independent inquiry into Connecting for Health and demanded that trusts be allowed to seek solutions directly from IT providers.
Dr David Wrede, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust, told the BMA’s annual meeting that it was “Groundhog Day” for the representatives. He said the meeting passed a motion last year calling for an inquiry because of problems with the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and a year later problems were still continuing and there had been no inquiry.
He cited problems including the Worthing trust chief executive’s claim that Cerner’s functionality was inferior, delays in start dates for the system at Barts and the London NHS Trust, and cancer care delays at Barts blamed on the Cerner system.
He added: “What we have experienced as clinicians is a system that’s very slow and difficult to get things done.”
Dr Wrede claimed the specification had not been properly considered and that a one size fit all approach was not right when trying to implement systems in hospitals as diverse as Weston General, St Barts and the Royal London. He said the NHS needed to understand what had gone wrong with NPfIT.
He added: “If you have an incident the size of this in a hospital I think someone fills in a form and puts a red stamp on it and something happens. As a clinician, as a future patient and as a taxpayer I want the truth known and lessons learned so it doesn’t happen again.”
Dr Wrede argued that, in the interim, trusts had to move forward and that individual trusts or small groups of trusts should work directly with the suppliers of systems.
He said: “We must give the trusts and the excellent people that work in the trusts the freedom to work with the IT suppliers and give us the systems we need.”
Dr Alan Russell, BMA council member, said he was concerned that too many local trusts were not good enough to be given responsibility for local implementation and that problems with Choose and Book were often caused by trusts.
He added: “There are too many trusts that take what’s put out nationally and change it and make it worse than it ever was.”
However Dr Wrede’s call for trusts to be given local autonomy on IT systems was backed by representatives.
Dr Wrede added: “There are plenty of trusts who can do this well. The RVI [Royal Victoria Infirmary] in Newcastle runs its own system, Burton runs its own system, Arrowe Park runs its own system, Nuneaton runs its own and they’ve run them since the mid-1990s. The individual trusts should take the responsibility and if they don’t know what to do they should turn to trusts that do and work in consortia. This has been proven to work.”