Strategic health authorities will only have limited powers to set local IT priorities, board papers suggest.

The long-awaited details of the delayed plans to devolve IT responsibilities reveal that SHAs' principal role will be to implement centrally led systems.

The changes, known as the local ownership programme for the national IT programme, were launched by NHS chief executive David Nicholson last November.

Mr Nicholson wanted to give SHAs, acute trusts and primary care trusts more choice over national IT programme products and services.

But an NHS East of England board paper for May says the decision to keep a national IT approach 'necessarily limits the freedom of action of individual SHAs or trusts to make significant changes'.

It adds: 'The degree of change is effectively constrained by cost and commercial considerations.'

NHS Connecting for Health, the agency implementing the programme, has so far declined to detail the functions SHAs will inherit, but those are listed in a recent NHS South Central board paper:

  • requirements development for the care record service;
  • design, build and test for the care record service;
  • local deployment;
  • local service management;
  • communications and stakeholder engagement;
  • benefits realisation;
  • service implementation.

CfH will continue to take responsibility for areas including commercial strategy, supplier contract negotiations, management of funds, national services and products.

HSJ has also learned that a risk management process is currently in place for the broader IT programme repositioning strategy, which includes the local ownership programme.

Nine high risks have been identified in NHS Yorkshire and the Humber, where 'the confused/mixed messages or lack of a clear transition plan will have a severe impact on the programme and could result in the loss of key CfH staff', according to an SHA board paper.