The release of the Department of Health’s much-delayed strategy on an “information revolution” has been put back again, and is now not expected until the end of the year.
HSJ has learned that the strategy, originally expected in April this year before being pushed back to an “autumn” release date, is now to come out in “winter” 2011.
It is understood that the DH is likely to release the document after the Health and Social Care Bill receives royal assent, and is currently adapting the document to ensure it fits with the restructured health service the bill will create.
Officials also want it to reflect the recommendations of the NHS Future Forum, which last month stressed the importance of information in encouraging patient choice.
Katie Davis, the DH’s interim managing director for informatics, is also understood to be working on proposals to create a new health informatics body. Initial proposals were outlined last month in a letter from NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.
The DH’s updated business plan, published last week, said responses to a consultation exercise that finished in January were still being analysed.
A DH source close to the strategy disputed this and said a separate document, summarising the consultation responses, would be published before the strategy comes out.
Matthew Swindells, health chair of British Computer Society, the chartered institute of IT, said: “The policy agenda is moving on, with this week’s announcement on extended choice, and still we don’t have guidance over the information strategy.
“The parts of the information revolution that are needed to empower patients and drive the pieces of policy that are already out there need to be put out now [instead of] wait[ing] for the bill.”
Tim Sheppard, UK public sector director at Dell Services, told HSJ that wider interest among firms not closely involved with Connecting for Health, the DH’s informatics directorate, had “waned”. Trusts and suppliers were “proceeding with business as best we can, with or without it”, he said.
The business plan also announced that the DH is undertaking a “fundamental review of NHS data returns” covering the department and its arm’s-length bodies.
The department will be consulting on this over the summer. HSJ has been told the project will attempt to improve the quality of information and will be “streamlining” data collections to ensure NHS organisations are not subjected to “unnecessary” requests.
Patients are to be given greater control of their GP records during 2012, the business plan reveals. A timetable will be published in December 2011 and data on the proportion of patients who have been given more access to their records will be released from the following September.