Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne came as close as any politician is likely to do for apologising for the National Programme for IT in the NHS this morning.
Speaking at EHI Live 2012, he said he realised Labour had failed with NPfIT, which had not worked out as planned.
“I think we’ve acknowledged that we made mistakes and there were problems with that IT system,” he told one of the first sessions of the second day of the event in Birmingham.
He added that government IT systems “tended to be over budget and not work the way they intended to”, but Labour could learn from its mistakes.
Gwynne criticised the current government’s NHS reshuffle and said it was a waste of money. “The National Audit Office estimates the NHS reorganisation could cost up to £3 billion; money that I think could be far better spent on patient care.
“At the same time, the NHS has been tasked with saving £20 billion by 2015 and that in itself is a huge challenge to the NHS.”
He added that if Labour won the next general election, it would repeal the Health and Social Care Act.
“What we won’t do is put the NHS through another top down reorganisation, it’s the last thing the NHS needs.”
Gwynne also argued that the reforms would make it harder to get a new IT system in place, because “time and resources would be taken up by this massive structural change.”
He did, however, welcome the pledge by the new government for patients to have electronic access to their GP records by 2015.
Indeed, he pointed out that the Labour government had been the first to insist that every patient should have access to their individual electronic records.
Gwynne said IT was now more important than ever in improving patient care. He said he was very positive about the future of telehealth, especially with the Department of Health suggesting it could save about £1.2 billion.
“I think that is crucial. The NHS is going through quite a financially tight time. We should be looking at ways to maximise the effect of IT in the medical profession.
“Effective IT can and must plan a key role in improving both the quality and efficiency of health care. For the future we need to look very carefully on what changes need to happen in the NHS.”