The NHS information strategy, which is due out this month, will attempt to create a “mature adult relationship” between central direction and local action, a conference was told yesterday.

Addressing the 2012 Health Informatics Congress in London, Jim Easton, the NHS national director for improvement and efficiency, said the strategy would set out to raise the profile of information and IT in the health service.

He said it would seek to move IT from being a “back-room service to a critical front-room service" in acknowledgement that working with data forms a “huge part of care” in the NHS.

“We are going to push really hard for integrated care, as that’s what patients ask for. The glue that will hold integrated care together is information, and that’s what needs to flow effectively between organisations,” he said.

Easton told the conference that the reforms in the Health and Social Care Bill do not amount to choosing between a “top-down or bottom-up system.”

He said the information strategy would reflect this, by covering standards and infrastructure, while allowing “freedom and flexibility for local innovation.”

“What we are striving for in the wider reform process and the IT strategy is not to choose between the top-down and bottom-up, but instead to achieve a mature adult relationship between the two,” said Easton.

He also said that during his work on the strategy he had detected “positive changes” in the culture of the NHS, with a willingness from trust chief executives to embrace the changes in IT and information that lie ahead.

“They are beginning to understand that somewhere locked away in their organisations is the clinical leadership, the solutions they need to do their jobs.

“In the NHS today we have a group of clinical leaders who are giving people hell as they want to drive care faster and better. There is a deep change in clinical behaviour – the economics will drive it.”

Easton warned the conference that the current efficiency savings being implemented across the NHS were a “dress rehearsal for the next 20 years”, if the organisation was going to deliver sustainable care in the face of rising demand for an ageing population and a growing burden of chronic disease.

“It is going to get harder as we go on, we know we did the easier things first and if you look at the Chancellor’s budget, deep structural change is going to be with us for the next decade.”

Also at the conference, Matthew Swindells, chair of the BCS Health Executive announced a new collaboration between BCS Health and HIMSS, which will introduce the HIMSS electronic medical records adoption model to the UK.

The model, which gauges IT adoption in hospitals, will give trusts a method of benchmarking their systems in comparison to those implemented in other countries.

"We’re delighted to be working with HIMSS Analytics Europe on this project. We believe information and technology are crucial to the challenge of transforming our healthcare service,” he said.

A committee consisting of Luke Readman, chief information officer at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Jon Lindberg from Intellect, Professor Iain Carpenter from the Royal College of Physicians, and Peter Dyke and Kathy Mason from the Department of Health Informatics Directorate will oversee the project.