The government's push towards making the NHS more like a 'corporate' body has been strengthened by the revised IT strategy for the health service issued on Monday.
Building the Information Core:
implementing the NHS plan draws heavily on the 1998 IT strategy Information for Health and repeats its targets for connecting GPs to NHSnet and key projects such as electronic patient records.
But it also includes new targets to accelerate the spread of IT across the NHS - in particular, a target to give all trust staff desktop access to NHSnet and the Internet by March 2003.
In addition, it sets out a vision of how the technology can be used to deliver the patient-centred service envisaged in the NHS plan and gives a new emphasis to national standards.
Building the Information Core says national projects have already been commissioned for digital TV and smart-card technology. A 'national solution' will be developed for electronic booking systems, based on local pilots.
Joint procurements will also be encouraged for 'more mature areas' of NHS IT, such as electronic patient records, which will be 'required to conform to agreed national and international standards'.
As if to reinforce the direction of travel, the document also talks about the NHS as a 'brand name that is recognised internationally' and discusses how it should be used and protected.
Pete Dyke, head of marketing for BT Health, said the strategy was 'a corporate IT approach, the same as a large company such as Microsoft would use'.
'They do not go and ask 36,000 users what they would like, ' he said. 'If you start from the basis that 'this is the decision, live with it', it is possible to make progress much more rapidly.'