A CIO at one of Britain's leading NHS trusts has revealed to me the very worrying truth behind the shake-up of the National Health Service that the Conservative Party led government is trying to push through.
If the GP consortia led policy comes into force patient data will be placed at great risk and the likely savings to the national budget are unlikely, in fact tax payers will pay more into the health system for no return.
The leading healthcare CIO described to me the effects that the policy being driven by the Minister for Health Andrew Lansley.
Putting the onus of healthcare funding and decision making onto GPs is, according to this CIO, in effect placing a corner shop sized business in charge of an enterprise as large as a supermarket. The two do not compare, the only similarity is that they are both in the same vertical sector. The infrastructure of best practice and business processes will be discarded.
The Prime Minister David Cameron is again on the publicity trail trying to drum up support for the Conservative Party plans to modernise the National Health Service (NHS). His main selling point is that GPs are closer to the needs of the local community. But as this CIO points out, the demands that the government is placing on these GP consortia will quickly turn good local GPs into middle managers with acres of bureaucracy to contend with, thus removing them from the front line of medicine and therefore from understanding local needs.
But the greatest concern this CIO has for the Tory policy is around information management. CIOs in every sector worry about information management, but it takes on a new level of importance in healthcare. From what this CIO has seen of the government's plans, the stringent levels of information and technology governance that NHS CIOs have put in place in recent years will be lost. This could have a series of worrying side effects for patients.
GPs are not tech illiterate, but the governance around technology and information that is required to operate a hospital or primary care trust (PCT) is way beyond the scope of a GP practice. The CIO again refers to their analogy of the corner shop versus the supermarket chain. Our supermarket chains have big systems and rules for big information requirements, as do PCTs.
The Conservatives claim this policy will reduce costs in the NHS, but as our CIO points out, admin staff will be made redundant from PCTs and receive a redundancy payout from the Department of Health. As GP consortia discover the complexity of managing healthcare budgets they will require admin staff. It is likely that those who have working experience of administration in healthcare will be recruited, thus putting those previously made redundant by the Department of Health back on the department's payroll.
David Cameron is right that the NHS faces a "future crisis" as the western sedentary lifestyle creates new health problems for the NHS to tackle. The NHS is not immune from the need to modernise, improve processes and adapt, but when you listen to the concerns of a CIO, it is concerning as it seems this government does not fully understand the enormity of what healthcare provision involves.