As part of the next stage review of the health service will see the publication of the blueprint for NHS informatics, to accompany last week’s ten year blueprint for the health service ‘High Quality Care for All: The NHS Next Stage Review’.

The accompanying informatics review matters as the Darzi direction of travel is all about measuring quality and patient experience, providing choice and integrating care. Elsewhere on E-Health Insider Lyn Whitfield describes the review as the once in a generation review of the NHS for the information generation.

But those expecting a fundamental change of direction on the NHS IT programme are likely to be disappointed. Despite mounting delays on care records, the fact the strategy dates back to the beginning of the decade and subsequent policy challenges all the signs are the Government is sticking to its guns on NPfIT.

Instead the review is likely to focus on the high level need of good quality information to monitor and improve the quality of health services, enable meaningful patient choice and deliver integrated care.

One of the biggest issues that Lord Darzi identifies is how the health service can provide people with good information and interact with them in the way they want.

When Matthew Swindells, the author of the review, delivered his draft report almost two months ago, it had over 100 recommendations, including changes to NPfIT. But before the report was finalised Swindells announced his departure and has now joined consultancy Tribal.

While he was in post, Swindells gave a series of presentations saying that the health service needed clearer joined-up leadership on IT and its use of information, with a much clearer strategic direction and accountability.

Such a joined-up approach is likely to cover both health and social care, with proposals already floated last week to extend access to the summary care record to non-NHS staff, including social care professionals.

Another area already clearly signalled is the continuation of developing NHS Choices as the key portal for patient information and service quality data. The direction of travel clearly appears to be to develop NHS Choices as a transactional hub for both information and health services.

Given the priorities set out by Lord Darzi’s next stage review the informatics review began by Swindells is likely to focus on the pragmatic delivery of business information requirements required by the NHS now, and in support of policy priorities such as 18-week waits and practice based commissioning.

Patient record handling and information governance are also known to be very high on the personal agenda of NHS chief executive David Nicholson and likely to feature prominently.

One possible new twist may be for NHS trusts to be urged to introduce independent auditors to make sure they are keeping to guidelines for their handling of patient data. A move signalled this week by NHS Connecting for Health’s patient lead Marlene Winfield.


Access to NHS Care Records may be broadened

NHS Choices gets central role in future health

Darzi’s report for the digital generation