The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

The National Programme for IT officially ended four years ago, but its spirits continue to haunt parts of the NHS where it failed to deliver promised improvements.

The scheme – one of New Labour’s flagship projects – succeeded in establishing critical technology services like the NHS Spine and NHS Mail, but these achievements were eclipsed by its failure to provide trusts with value-for-money IT systems.

Despite the programme’s premature death in the early 2010s, many trusts are still battling NPfIT’s demons today – often in the shape of clunky electronic patient record systems.

But, in a symbolic moment, one trust has exorcised NPfIT’s legacy by becoming the first of the cohort which installed the Lorenzo EPR to switch to another supplier. The Lorenzo system has caused problems for several trusts over the years, though some providers are reportedly content with it. 

The transformation at Barnsley Hospital Foundation Trust was made all the more unique as it was carried out remotely due to covid-19 restrictions.

The trust’s head of ICT, Tom Davidson, described changing their EPR mid-pandemic as “a bit Evel Knievel”, but said the transition was accomplished without any major incidents.

With other trusts within the Lorenzo cohort set to run new EPR procurements in the upcoming years, ghostbusters will be watching carefully to see if the system has a future in the NHS. 

Poor diversity, poor ratings

The killing of George Floyd and impact of covid-19 on ethnic minorities has seen a confluence of events that health chiefs simply cannot ignore – and with that, greater calls to tackle inequalities.

Lord Victor Adebowale added to this sentiment when he told HSJ that inspectors should not be awarding top ratings to trusts which lack diverse senior leadership.

While some race equality leaders have long pondered about this, events in the last six months, especially at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, appear to have amplified those thoughts.

What happens next is yet to be seen.