Structures to support NHS and informatics nationally and regionally are beginning to emerge, with NHS London establishing an IT strategy group and the Department of Health sounding out the NHS IT community on its requirements.
In March, the London Programme for IT established a 2015 Strategy Group to work with London trusts as NHS London winds down.
The DH, meanwhile, has been holding meetings for some months with NHS IT staff in trusts, primary care trusts and health informatics services to gather views about the future support needed.
This has led to talk of a “Super HIS” or a new “NHS Health Informatics England” and although some observers say it is too early to say what structures will emerge, the DH this week confirmed that there will be a new body to support health informatics in England.
Details on both the national and London developments remain sketchy, particularly with the Health and Social Care Bill on "pause" and the health information strategy promised for the spring apparently on hold as well.
EHealth Insider understands that the national discussions are being led by Alan Perkins, director of modernisation at NHS Connecting for Health, with support from Debbie Bywater, deputy chief information officer at NHS North West and Trevor Wright, deputy chief information officer at NHS Yorkshire and the Humber.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Information is central to delivering the government’s vision for patients being at the heart of high quality healthcare and we are currently considering the best way to provide the informatics support that will enable this.
“Discussions with colleagues across the NHS are focusing on four elements: dedicated teams in each of the new organisations, an Information Centre to manage collection and dissemination of information, a range of local shared services and a national shared informatics function.
“The latter would be a new body which offers specialist skills to the health service in terms of analysing information, technical architecture, contract management and change management.
“As we pause, listen, reflect and improve our NHS modernisation plans, health informatics futures are also being refined in order to ensure they offer the best service to a modern NHS."
In a statement, NHS London told EHI: “The purpose of the 2015 Strategy Group is to ensure the LPfIT programme has a continued legacy after SHAs are closed in 2013.
"The purpose of the group is to look at how the contracts that are in place can continue to be monitored and success evaluated beyond the life of SHAs.”
Its objectives are to ensure that:
– The NHS understand the obligations and restrictions of the current contract
– The contractual obligations continue to be met during the transitional period
– The NHS is able to govern the work and supplier relationship
– The NHS takes ownership and is no longer dependent on LPfIT for support
– NHS priorities are reflected in the new structure
– Any activities undertaken by this group are aligned with the overall strategy of the Programme
– There is cost effective continuity of service beyond 2015.
Both initiatives have been broadly welcomed by NHS IT managers contacted by EHI.
Colin Sweeney, director of ICT at King’s College Hospital said national contracts for PACS, Cerner, N3 and NHSmail and the Care Records Service had always been handled by the SHA.
“We feel that there is a continued need for somebody to manage these national contracts and I would have been very disappointed if they were to go altogether.”