IT PROGRAMME Lots of bumps still ahead, director general admits

Published: 10/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5942 Page 9

The director general of the national IT programme has acknowledged that progress on some aspects of the scheme has been 'mixed' and warned that 'lots of bumps' remain ahead.

Addressing the World Health Care Congress in Washington DC, Richard Granger said: 'Some things are proving more difficult than was anticipated; some are proving easier.' But he said there was no viable alternative to the current plans.

Mr Granger said many of the problems experienced by the programme were common to all largescale IT implementations, but in this case were magnified by its size.

'There is nothing out there that works at this scale at the moment and We are finding all sorts of interesting challenges, ' he said.

He described 'the physics of the hardware' as one obstacle. The rate at which hardware become outdated created problems given the scale of the programme. He also said the complexity of the task will see more difficulties arise, but asserted that the programme must go forward because it is about 'saving thousands of lives, saving billions of pounds and delivering a much more efficient public health service'.

'While there will be a lot of bumps along the way for the massive implementation programme, I do not think there is a viable alternative, ' he said.

Mr Granger was in Washington to discuss the programme's approach to electronic patient records, but took the opportunity to address broader criticisms, particularly over clinician engagement.

He argued that the programme had been open 'across the NHS' about requesting feedback from clinicians, royal colleges and other bodies.

. A poll of doctors has found GP support for the national IT programme has fallen sharply. The survey of 900 doctors reported that 21 per cent were at least 'fairly enthusiastic' about the programme, compared with a figure of 56 per cent 12 months ago. Medical pollsters Medix found 70 per cent of GPs thought records would be less secure than current systems. Just 2 per cent thought the new system would be more secure (see story below).