The biggest stories and debate in health and care

Getting the basics right

The NHS’s new chief clinical information officer has acknowledged that the funding picture for technology on the NHS isn’t terribly clear.

In his first interview since being appointed in February, Simon Eccles said CIOs and CCIOs throughout the country had expressed confusion around what funding pots are available (and for what).

This, he said, should be fixed with the first quarter of 2018-19 but how far this will go remains to be seen.

A certain amount of confusion, combined with delays, is nothing new for tech funds in the NHS.

The line between what money is being spent, what has been allocated and what money still needs to be pried from Treasury has often been blurred.

Dr Eccles was also keen to stress the importance of getting some IT basics right across the NHS, such as good quality clinical coding, staff ID and medication.

He has spoken previously about focusing too much on “shiny objects” in the NHS, such as artificial intelligence, without getting IT basics right first.

The theme of doing the basics well was picked up by NHS England’s national director of operations and information, Matthew Swindells, on the stage at the e-Health Week conference in London on Tuesday.

However, Mr Swindells was more direct route than Dr Eccles, naming several trusts that were failing to get basics right on electronic referrals and reporting data on referrals to treatment.

Mr Swindells said the trusts lagging on getting “bog standard” IT right were spoiling the chances of more tech money for everyone.

“If we can’t do the basics then me going cap in hand to Treasury for another £10bn to sort IT out just sounds like fools’ money.” (Note: there is no suggestion of another £10bn coming for NHS IT.)

Sources have told HSJ these providers are unlikely to get any central additional IT funding anytime soon, without fixing some of these basics first.

This is probably not the sort of clarity that some CIOs and CCIOs were looking for.