The stories that had EHI readers commenting in 2014 dealt with some real blasts from the past.
Top of the list was NHS England’s latest attempt to promote the NHS Number as the primary identifier for patient information in England.
The NHS Number was introduced in 1996 and advocated in the Information for Health strategy in 1998. It was “mandated” a decade later by the National Patient Safety Agency. And it has appeared as a requirement in planning guidance and IT strategies ever since.
Yet it is still not in universal use. Some of the posters of the 37 comments on the story were outraged about this.
Others argued there were very good reasons it; starting with the number of patients who turn up in A&E and similar settings without an NHS Number, and moving onto the way that databases, integration engines, and other systems actually work.
The second most commented story was the news that two thirds of NHS trusts were still using XP, six months after Microsoft ended general support for the operating system that was launched in 2001.
More alarmingly, a short EHI survey found that a large minority of trusts had no plans to move off the OS just six months before the one year deal between the Cabinet Office and the company for extended support for the public sector was due to expire.
Again, some of the posters of the 33 comments on this story were outraged that trusts had not migrated long before the deadline. But others thought it was an inevitable consequence of the difficulties of securing capital investment and the sheer difficulty of migrating away from an OS for which a lot of healthcare IT systems were built.
Continuing the blast from the past, the news that the Department of Health had lost its legal battle with Fujitsu over its exit from the Southern Programme for IT in 2008 attracted 30 comments.
In this case, there was a consensus of opinion. EHI readers were horrified that this had cost the NHS a reported £700m, while details of what exactly had happened were being kept back, so there was no chance of learning from what had gone wrong.
Another programme dating from the National Programme for IT era is the Summary Care Record. A Joe’s view opinion piece from Joe McDonald on the news that it has finally reached 40 million patients was the most commented Insight piece.
Most commenters were pleased to see that the milestone had been reached; but wanted easier access through core systems so the record is actually used in clinical practice.
Back in the day, the SCR was immensely controversial, because it was the first, national database of patient records to be created. There were rows over whether patients should have to opt-in or opt-out; and over who should have access.
This year, the care.data programme to expand the Hospital Episode Statistics, link them to other data sets, and get them out to researchers, ran into very similar problems.
Another Joe’s view, this time of care.data was duly the third most read Insight article of the year. But the other subjects to get feature readers going were more modern.
Long-standing GP columnist Neil Paul had the second most commented Insight article with a piece on free wi-fi; and, just as importantly, how it might be paid for.
Other hot topics included Adrian Byrne's thoughts on open source software and the director of IM&T at University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust's thoughts on developing apps.
Most commented news stories, 2014:
Survey gives NHS Number another push
NHS SBS issues six year, £1.25bn tender
Two thirds of trusts still on XP
Volunteers sought for Code4Health pilots
Most commented Insight, 2014:
Joe’s view of 40m SCRs
Another view of free wi-fi
Joe’s view of care.data
Ade Memoire: on developing apps
Ade Memoire: gets source-y