NHS acute trusts in England will be spending around £800m a year on IT in four years time, as they respond to the end of the National Programme for IT in the NHS and the other pressures on them.

The latest report from EHI Intelligence, which will be launched tomorrow at EHI Live 2012, calculates that total IT spending by NHS acute trusts in England will increase by 4.2% in 2012-13, taking the total for which trusts are directly responsible to £763m.

The ‘Market by numbers’ report calculates that spending will continue to grow in each of the following four years, reaching £829m in 2015-16.

This is in marked contrast to the squeeze on public sector spending that is expected over the remaining years of the present Parliament.

It reflects the need for a significant number of trusts to make big investments in the patient administration and electronic patient record systems that NPfIT failed to deliver to them.

However, NPfIT will continue to play a role, both by renewing its big national infrastructure projects and by releasing some of the local service provider money that has been left unspent in the North, Midlands and East and the South to trusts in these areas.

EHI Intelligence calculates that a further £400m will be available to trusts over the period of this report from the remains of the national programme, based on around 40 trusts being funded for systems at a nominal £10m each over the lifetime of their contract.

Paul Smith, director of EHI Intelligence said: “It is very easy to assume that every area of public sector spending will be cut as the government implements its austerity plans.

"But our analysis shows clearly that NHS IT will demonstrate robust growth over the next four years.

“The ‘Market by numbers’ report predicts growth in every area of NHS IT product spending; staffing, services, software, hardware and communications.

“The predicted increase in spending on NHS staff is particularly interesting; and not one that we would expect to see in other IT sectors, where services and software as a service type spends are the largest area of expansion.

“It suggests that NHS trusts are looking to invest in their IT departments, services and staff as they get to grips with the policy and business pressures on them.”

EHI editor Jon Hoeksma added: “Although staffing is only predicted to grow by a compound annual growth rate of 1.4% a year over the period of this report, that represents a real vote of confidence in IT staff by trusts and their boards.”

EHI Intelligence is EHI’s research arm. It runs the EHI Intelligence NHS Trust Database, which holds validated data about the major systems in use at every NHS trust in the country, and publishes a series of reports analysing the healthcare IT market in the UK in detail.

‘Market by numbers’ predicts particularly large spends on PAS and EPR systems, and on picture archiving and communications and radiology information systems, as the national programmes contracts for these come to an end.

However, because trusts appear to be securing far better deals than NPfIT managed, the size of the PACS/RIS market is predicted to decline over the next four years, to £52m in 2015-16.

Other areas of software spending examined in the report include document management, digital dictation and business intelligence, all of which are framed as investments that can help trusts run more efficiently in the years ahead.