UK National Health Service (NHS) capital investment in computers and software shot up 41 percent last year to more than £336m newly released figures have revealed.
The figures from the NHS IM&T Investment Survey 2006 show the planned investment for 2006-07 from both the NHS's £12.4bn National Program for IT (NPfIT) and local spending, compared with actual spending in previous years.
The survey – which had a 94.5% response rate across strategic health authorities, primary care trusts and hospital trusts – reveals that capital investment in IT across the health service rose from £238.5m in 2005-06 to a planned spend of £336.4m for 2006-07 – nearly 16.5% of the NHS’s entire capital expenditure.
Revenue spending on NHS IT has increased less sharply, the survey shows, rising 7% from just under £1.1bn in 2005-06 to a planned £1.17bn in 2006-07 – around 1.8% of the health service’s revenue budget.
The figures also highlight the increasingly dominant role of central investment from NHS Connecting for Health, which runs NPfIT.
In 2003-04, the £23.6m central capital investment in IT amounted to little more than 10% of the £234m local capital funding. The following year, local IT investment dropped slightly to £205m, while central funding dramatically increased to £364m – substantially more than the local spend.
By last year, planned central capital investment in IT had doubled to £726m – more than twice as much as the planned local investment of £336m.
Revenue figures also show a significant increase in the importance of central funding. In 2003-04, central revenue spend on IT, at £280.8m, was around 30% of local IT investment, which stood at £914.2m.
The proportion rose to 45% the following year as central investment grew sharply to £475.5m against a £1.05bn local spend. By 2006-07, the planned expenditure figures show that central funding rose to nearly 47% of local investment.
But although local NHS organisations must pay both for local implementation of NPfIT developments and for their own IT requirements outside NPfIT, the figures show that revenue funding for IT is still well below the target set out by Derek Wanless in his 2002 review of future healthcare needs.
Wanless recommended that IT spending should account for 4% of NHS budgets by 2008. But the planned expenditure figures for 2006-07 show that revenue spending on IT was expected to take up just 2.58% of total NHS funds.
Earlier this month, departing NHS IT chief Richard Granger launched a staunch defence of NPfIT spending figures, claiming he had been “singled out for special treatment” by the National Audit Office.
The survey figures show that software licences accounted for more than 10% of the capital spending on IT, at £35.2m for 2006-07.
London stood out as the biggest spending NHS area, with a £71.7m capital investment in IT backed by £205.6m of revenue spending.