Socitm has said the government’s overhaul of the NHS raises serious questions over information handling and IT system choices.

Techonlogy to support personal and health care choices “should be delivered by the market and not be centrally prescribed by NHS IT”, said Socitm, which represents public sector IT managers.

But it also said local health authorities “should lead on IT support for allocation of health and social care resources”.

Socitm's comments come in response to a government consultation on NHS data and systems. The IT and data access proposals are so significant that they are being decided alone, but will eventually be added to yesterday’s larger NHS overhaul – which could formally put GPs in charge of budgets after the government published a bill in parliament.

The government proposals were “strong on service user engagement and empowerment and on proposals for standards within health”, Socitm said, adding that the standards should be applied across the country. It said it supported medical records being available to patients online.

But it warned that the proposals were weak on social care information and “even weaker on joining-up health and social care information for service users and professionals at points of decision and delivery”.

Socitm said that smaller scale groups of local authorities “should lead on provision of information systems” that support the allocation of health and social care resources.

It also delivered what appears to be a stinging rebuke to the troubled £12.7 billion National Programme for IT in NHS England. It said that “top-down, large-scale, supply and technology-led approaches” that have marked recent years “have failed to deliver effective outcomes”.
“The main reason has been failure to involve patients, service users, clinicians, care professionals and the public in their development and implementation,” Socitm said, in what has been an opinion often voiced in technology and healthcare circles.

The proper management of IT “will create efficiencies” that will help the NHS meet constrained budgets, it said.