The National Programme for IT in the NHS will be deploying new systems to NHS trusts “as a matter of routine,” within 12 months, according to Martin Bellamy, head of NHS Connecting for Health (NHS CFH) and director of programme and systems delivery at the Department of Health.

Bellamy, who has been in post for six months said, "We often focus on the aspects of the National Programme that are behind schedule. But we need to remind people of our progress.

“As I've travelled around the NHS, I have heard many people talking about what things were like before the National Programme. IT was fragmented. Trusts were served by smaller suppliers, which meant ambitions for modernisation were often thwarted. While we still have a long way to go, we have many of the foundations in place for making that modernisation happen."

Previewing a keynote address he will present to the HC2009 conference at the end of the month, Bellamy told the British Computer Society, "In a year's time I believe we will be realising benefits and deploying new systems as a matter of routine. We will be working with NHS organisations in a systematic way so that any deployment of systems is fully prepared for. We will be building a rhythm of delivery."

With the future direction of the NPfIT being questioned by MPs and after highly publicised difficulties in deploying systems at large hospitals, Bellamy said, “The top priority for the next 12 months is to demonstrate that acute systems - Cerner and Lorenzo - can be deployed in large, complex hospital trusts and provide value to patients and clinicians.

“We need to be able to show examples of the systems working normally. To achieve this challenging objective, we need to work closely with suppliers and the NHS hospitals which are the earlier adopters. The scale of the challenge is massive and we need excellent team work - pulling together - to get it done.”

Bellamy was determined to emphasise the positive and answer his NHS critics who want more local control of IT.

“Across the NHS there is widespread support for local decision making, but some things have to be done once and done centrally - N3 (the national network), the Spine (which transmits patient information), NHS email systems, PACs (digital imaging), C&B (Choose and Book), Electronic Prescriptions.

"They were all complex programmes which have been delivered successfully and centrally,” he told the BCS.