The Conservative Party has commissioned an independent review of NHS IT policy.

The review is intended to inform future government policy for the use of IT in the NHS, health and social care in England. The review will aim to establish a vision for IT in the NHS, health and social care and inform the policy actions the current and any future government should take.

Chaired by Dr Glyn Hayes, the former chair of the BCS Health Informatics Forum, the new review has been commissioned by, and will report back to, the Conservative shadow health minister, Stephen O’Brien.

Dr Hayes told E-Health Insider that the he only agreed to lead the review after being assured of its independent nature. “The BCS is apolitical,” said Dr Hayes.

He stressed that he intended the review to focus on developing a pragmatic blueprint to get the maximum patient benefit from IT and informatics in health and social care, and not to dissect the existing National Programme for IT in the NHS.

He said the first requirement was to define a clear shared “vision of what the future holds for the next five to ten years”.

Dr Hayes said the roots of the review could be traced back to the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee review of the national programme, which first recommended that such a review should be conducted. However, he said the review “may inform the development of Conservative party policy in this area.”

Dr Hayes said the review will not be retreading the ground covered by the recent Health Informatics Review, which was carried out by the Department of Health. He said it had really only looked at the way forward for the DH and NHS Connecting for Health.

And he argued it had failed to consider a number of key areas in sufficient detail. While the review focused on information sharing across the health service, for example, Dr Hayes suggested that some of the greatest benefits came from ensuring information was available “at the point of patient care.”

The plan is to carry out the review rapidly, with all written evidence to be submitted by the end of September. This phase will be followed by oral hearings in October and November. A first draft is to be produced in December and the final report is to be published by the end of March 2009.

“The review will be published as an independent review and then it will be for the Conservative party to decide whether to adopt some or all of the policy recommendations,” said Dr Hayes. Secretarial support for producing the report will be provided by the Conservative party.

The review group has already been formed, with members from primary and secomdary care already confirmed. It has issued an invitation for written evidence from individuals and organisations involved in health and social care.

All interested parties are invited to submit written evidence by 30 September to

“The letter has been circulated to all Royal Colleges, academic units; anyone who has expressed an interest – and that includes the readers of E-health Insider,” said Dr Hayes.

In the letter inviting submissions, Dr Hayes stresses the central role that electronic patient records have to play: “In particular we are aware of the benefits to be gained from patient centred records.

“We believe that such records, appropriately designed, properly implemented, and made available to those providing health and, where feasible, social care would enable the improvement and efficient management of patient and service user outcomes.”


The letter calling for evidence for the review is published in full in a new forum that EHI has set up. Readers are invited to use the forum to read and discuss it.