The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has issued a stern warning to health IT suppliers that they risk losing business with the NHS if they don’t fully embrace data-sharing by adopting common standards.
In his keynote speech at NHS Expo on 6 September, Matt Hancock said the interest of suppliers “are too often not aligned with the NHS’ interests” and that contracts are “badly managed”, with buyers often being locked-in to long deals that prevent them from shopping elsewhere.
In response, Hancock said he planned to increase the NHS’s in-house capacity to understand the technology behind IT systems, to ensure that staff are able to pick the right functionalities from them by splitting “big contracts into smaller pieces”, with more of a focus on user need.
He then addressed suppliers directly and said: “And I say to suppliers: I’ve heard some horror stories already. I’ve been appalled at some of the tales of blockages, especially in providers of systems for primary care.
“We are going to be extremely robust with any supplier who doesn’t live up to the new standards we are mandating.
“I want all our existing suppliers to come with us on this journey. But if you don’t want to come on this journey, you won’t be supplying IT to the NHS.
“We’re going to buy the right stuff.”
The health secretary also used his speech at the event in Manchester to make reference to mistakes of the past, including the National Programme for IT, though he added that “much has moved on” since the programme ended in 2010.
Hancock said that, given the NHS’s history with IT and technology, he could understand why leadership would “shy away from it”, but he claimed to have their back and said now was the time to “put the failures of the past behind us”.
He said: “Please hear this one message very clearly – I am not looking for people to blame; I am looking for people to lead. We will together drive this chance.
“We will make mistakes, and mis-steps. We will learn the right lessons from them and move on.”
During his speech, Hancock also announced £200 million funding to create additional global digital exemplars as well as confirming the NHS App will be piloted in five areas from October.