The new NHS information strategy runs to 100 pages, but says very little about money.
No additional funds are committed and the fate of monies previously earmarked for the National Programme for IT in the NHS remains murky.
In an exclusive interview with eHealth Insider, health minister Earl Howe said savings from NPfIT contracts “will be made available for investment in frontline services.”
Asked whether NPfIT funds will be made available to support the new strategy he said “the way we allocate capital funds is too complicated to easily answer.”
He also insisted that the lack of discussion of funding in ‘The Power of Information’ strategy is deliberate.
“We are no longer going to award large national contracts and will be moving to a much more local approach.
“From 2016, as the national programme contracts come to an end, the balance of funding and decision making will become more local.”
Questioned on whether the moratorium on further large IT contracts includes a new deal for CSC for the North, Midlands and East, Earl Howe said he “wasn’t close to that decision.”
Subsequent clarification indicated that CSC should be considered part of the existing NPfIT contracts.
The information strategy says “capital funds will be available in the usual way for investment in IT from the Department of Health.”
It also says a new capital fund will be created: “In moving to a more locally driven model for delivering informatics, the Department of Health recognises the need for central funding to be made available to the local NHS.
"A capital fund is being developed that will initially cover 2013-14 and 2014-15 to achieve this.”
The strategy says the details of how to make this new fund work will be developed over the summer/autumn of 2012.
Whether this will be based on unspent NPfIT funds, either released by savings in existing contracts or underspent due to lack of delivery in the CSC contract, is unclear.
In his interview Earl Howe said investment will primarily be down to provider organisations and local commissioners to deliver the strategy.
“We’re confident that funds earmarked for local commissioning will be utilised by CCGs [clinical commissioning groups].”
Read the full interview with Earl Howe in the Insight section.