Industry analyst Ovum has said that a hung parliament could hamper the push for change in the NHS but may lead to greater IT interoperability and more local ways of working.
While the country waits to see whether the Conservatives can form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, Ovum has raised concerns that “political horse trading” will not give trusts the clarity they would have expected if one party had gained an outright majority.
Ovum argues that a decisive victory would have enabled the winner to cut NHS expenditure with “a lower level compromise than could be expected from a hung parliament.”
Mike Davis, senior analyst, information management, and Cornelia Wels-Maug, senior analyst, government practice, at Ovum, said: “A hung parliament and the expected cuts in public sector expenditure will provide a real challenge to the drive for change in organisational processes in the NHS that the much maligned National Programme for IT was designed to support.”
Although NHS IT was rarely mentioned in the party manifestos, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had already made it clear that they would dismantle the National Programme for IT in the NHS in favour of more localised systems.
Labour had indicated it would keep the £12.7 billion programme, but scale some of it back in order to make £600m in efficiency savings.
The analysts argue that regardless of who forms the next government, the NHS IT market will open up to suppliers who were previously excluded from the programme.
Davis and Wels-Maug said: “We expect trusts to be given greater systems of choice the selection of systems” rather than taking the standard [Lorenzo or Cerner Millennium] from the local service providers.
“This will result in a larger focus on interoperability with existing systems and local ways of working, and potentially requires more rather than fewer service.”
The analysts have urged key decision makers within the NHS not to withdraw spending on NHS IT in order to deal with tighter budgets.
“Decision makers within the NHS need to be aware that this is not the time to cut the IT budget if trusts, all change management requires support, and IT is a key ingredient of that. Trusts and there funders need to be aware that better information is an enabler of change."
At the time of publishing, the Conservative had 306 seats, Labour 258 and Liberal democrats 57. Talks between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats had begun.