"Whingeing" hurts NHS IT, says project head

Whingeing and a lack of support has delayed the National Health Service's IT programme, the head of the modernisation agency claimed at the Smart Healthcare Expo in London, as he defended the project's progress.

Richard Granger, the chief executive of Connecting for Health, the agency charged with delivering the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), suggested that at the end of the multi-billion pound project, critics will look back and wonder if it could have been done more smoothly, more quickly.

"If there had been a bit less whingeing and a bit more support, maybe it would have done," he said.

Addressing suppliers in the audience, Granger said they should reconsider allegations that the process has been too secretive. The NHS programme is an open process compared to most IT projects, he claimed.

"You might want to ponder what you're comparing it to, as the rest of the IT sector is very secretive about levels of service achieved," he said.

In his talk, Granger went through the major areas of the NPfIT project - including the electronic patient records initiative, booking and transfer systems, as well as digital imaging systems - explaining what he believes is responsible for delays and what areas he sees as successes.

The NPfIT's problems are not with IT or software development, Granger argued. The bulk of the NPfIT programmes are either completely or mostly through development, he said. It is deployment that is proving difficult.

Granger blamed software firms for many of the difficulties with interoperability, especially with the electronic prescription system, and said large pharmaceutical firms were not helping.

"It's appalling how slow some FTSE100 corporations are at compliance," he said. "They're not welcoming with open arms the challenge to their bricks and mortar business model," he suggested.

The NHS Care Records Service (NCRS) programme's biggest hurdle isn't about IT, he claimed, but consent.

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