Nobody will ever be able to say that the NHS went un-warned about the tough financial times ahead.
One of the big themes of 2009 was the likely impact of the credit crunch on the public finances and what that might mean for health service spending after 2011.
As 2009 went on, the warnings about the “unprecedented” situation and the “unprecedented” efficiency savings that would be needed to cope with frozen funding and rising demand became grimmer and grimmer.
In the spring, NHS chief executive David Nicholson was merely warning the NHS that it might have to find £20 billion by 2014. By December, Chancellor Alistair Darling was telling the health service that it would.
The role that IT can play in helping the NHS to become more efficient without cutting quality is likely to be one of the themes of 2010. Within that, there will be more speculation about the role of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.
The Pre-Budget Report trimmed the programme by £600m; although it is far from clear where the axe will fall. Meanwhile, next year’s informatics planning guidance seems to give trusts much more choice in how they deliver the Clinical 5.
Despite this uncertainty, the programme finished 2009 on a relative high note with Lorenzo live in Bury, Millennium live in Kingston, the Summary Care Record being rolled out in five English regions and the informatics guidance vigorously promoting Choose and Book and NHSmail.
The top ten most read and most commented stories on E-Health Insider reflected the importance of the programme to readers; although confidentiality, information governance and job security also generated large responses.
The most read story of the year, with almost 8,000 unique views, was about NHS Connecting for Health being stripped of some key roles and reorganised, with more power passing to the Department of Health in the process.
The second most read story was about the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee giving NPfIT six months to deliver – a few weeks before DH chief information officer Christine Connelly did much the same with her November deadline for ‘significant progress’ in the acute sector.
The PAC’s intervention was also the most commented story of the year, with more than 40 comments. The second most commented story was about the Conservative Party’s response to the independent review of health and social care IT that it commissioned from Dr Glyn Hayes.
This promised to ‘dismantle’ much of the programme. The impact of politics on NHS IT is, of course, the other great imponderable of 2010, given that a general election could be held at any time before the first week of June. As ever, the only constant is change.
Ten most read stories on E-Health Insider:
Ten most commented stories on E-Health Insider:
PAC gives NPfIT six months to deliver CRS
Cerner go-live at Newcastle delayed
That was the year that was 2009: Read E-Health Insider’s review of 2009 in Opinion and Analysis