Agency Bid To ‘Suppress’ NHS Report

A Government agency asked for an independent report into its controversial NHS IT system not to be published, it has been claimed. NHS Connecting for Health, which is overseeing the £12.4 billion upgrade of the patient records system, asked for a halt to publication of the study from the British Computer Society (BCS), it was alleged.

An article in Computer Weekly magazine, and confirmed by the BCS, said the NHS’s director general of IT, Richard Granger, did not want the report published after seeing a draft, but the BCS published its report in December anyway – although it did agree to some of the requested revisions.

The report, which reacted positively to parts of the programme, also said that the “services deployed so far represent poor value for money”.

Political pressure had caused health officials to “deny problems and to defend the indefensible” and implementation plans had “all too frequently ranged from the optimistic to the unreal”, it added.

The report’s author, Ian Herbert, vice chairman of the BCS’s health informatics forum, told a recent conference that Mr Granger did not want the report published, saying he wanted to do something “more opaquely behind closed doors”.

The BCS made 17 changes at the request of NHS Connecting for Health, but did not make all the suggested revisions. A BCS spokesman said today: “NHS Connecting for Health tried to suppress our report after reading the draft version.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Connecting for Health said: “The British Computer Society is a respected body that we have worked with since the inception of the National Programme and its report is largely positive about NPfIT. It is a matter for the BCS and other bodies to publish any reports they commission.”

The Government’s National Programme for IT has been beset by problems and has come in for criticism as medics have voiced fears over the confidentiality of patient records while some parts of the system are way behind schedule.

The programme is designed to link more than 30,000 GPs to nearly 300 hospitals over a 10-year period. The new service includes an online booking system, a centralised medical records system for 50 million patients, e-prescriptions and fast computer network links between NHS bodies.