As the National Programme for IT grinds to a halt NHS CIOs have a pressing issue to deal with; formerly centrally procured contracts are to be procured and managed at Trust level.

The recent warning from CSC to its investors regarding NPfIT contract awards has not come as much of a surprise.

The Government position is clear, to give NHS Trusts autonomy through Foundation Trust status and to support them in procurement and implementation of the systems they believe they need to be independently successful.

We believe giving Trusts and their local health economies the independence to establish their own local vision and strategy, and to manage their own destiny is critical to modernising the NHS.

This is an exciting time for the NHS. With the end of the current NPfIT contracts imminent and most NHS Trusts already strategically assessing their options it presents opportunities to step change the delivery and support for better and more efficient healthcare delivery.

Many aspects of healthcare delivery are far behind patient and consumer expectations.

Engagement through digital and internet TV, support groups through Facebook, integrated working with local authorities, social care and third sector integration are a few examples of the innovation that NHS Trusts are examining to bring integrated NHS services closer to patients.

This break from the NPfIT allows these options to be explored and implemented.

While this presents an opportunity for grass-roots innovation to thrive there are also a number of significant risks should it not be carried out in the correct manner.

Whilst there is a need for guidance and assistance in establishing such models, the benefits to the Trusts and clinical services are significant.

NHS Trusts across the country have found themselves able to fund the replacement of their clinical and information systems at minimal, if any cost, through innovative commercial arrangements, business aligned strategies and partnerships with the commercial sector.

The market is challenging, there is no denying it. There is currently insufficient capability and capacity to meet the demands of the NHS over the next five years.

The multi-national businesses which make-up the bulk of NHS non-clinical system suppliers are failing to respond to current speed of change facing the NHS.

SMEs are beginning to fill the gap, ideally placed to rapidly implement IT solutions which meet business needs and support Trust’s through this period of unprecedented reform, achieving value for money and the best possible quality of care for patients.

Ultimately, all NHS Trusts, whether with existing systems under the NPfIT or not should be looking at the opportunities of how ICT can fundamentally transform their delivery of clinical services.

Rhys Hefford is CEO of Channel 3 Consulting and Digitech Resourcing

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