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IT spending cuts of 12% per year will severely impact on patient care, say senior NHS IT professionals

London, UK, 28 June 2012: Pressure to cut costs in the NHS will have a severe impact on both patient care and the patient experience, according to an independent survey of senior NHS IT directors commissioned by IT services company 2e2. In the survey of 100 IT directors, 87% said they were under pressure to cut costs in order to achieve the Government’s aim to save £20 billion from the NHS budget by 2014-15. Despite this translating into a 4% per year saving across the NHS as a whole, IT departments are being hit harder. Each needs to make an average saving of 10% in 2012 and 12% each subsequent year to 2015.

-NHS IT departments are caught in a trap and can’t walk out”, said Adam Kamruddin, Head of Healthcare, 2e2. -Not only do they need to make large savings; they are also tasked with providing the foundations to help improve healthcare standards through supplying more patient-centric services and giving clinicians more face-time with patients. Essentially, IT can and should become a vital part of providing healthcare in the 21st century. Evidently this will require investment and 71% believe that their current IT infrastructure isn’t capable of supporting those objectives. Yet pairing this with the need to cut costs makes for a tricky balancing act. 93% are concerned that cutting IT costs will have a negative impact on both patient care and experience.”

This challenge is amplified by an underlying lack of strategy. Only 41% of respondents had a clear strategic vision and roadmap for IT, while 61% admitted needing more IT strategy and planning skills within their department. One obstacle is a disconnect between IT and senior management: 54% of respondents believe that senior management does not understand how IT can be used to transform patient care.

At the same time, the break-up of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) means that individual NHS IT departments must take greater control over how they provision and deliver services. Despite the concerns around strategy, 53% of respondents believe that the break-up was a good decision, with 55% saying they will be able to work with service providers that better meet their needs. However, 67% of respondents also feel that they need extra resources and skills to deal with the increase and change in workload that accompanied the break-up, while 61% stated they didn’t have sufficient training programmes in place to address these skills gaps. Specific skills identified for improvement included: application management (67%), infrastructure management (59%) and project management (57%).

Lastly, respondents were still slow to new technologies that could help improve patient care. Even mobile working is relatively unexplored: only 48% of respondents have developed a mobile working strategy, while 71% don’t even have systems in place that enable phone calls to be routed to workers regardless of location. At the same time fewer than half (45%) of organisations have plans to implement telehealth services in the next two years. When asked about implementing a single patient view, where all data on a patient is held centrally and shared, the results were even worse: 79% of respondents don’t have the in-house skills and resources to enable such a view, while 56% believe that it isn’t a realistic or achievable objective. These issues continued with the exponential growth of data all organsiations have to deal with: 84% said this growth is already causing storage and management challenges, while both Local Area and Wide Area Networks are struggling to deal with increasingly large data files.

-Missing out on new technologies can actively hurt healthcare provision, and many recognise this,” continued Kamruddin. -Indeed, 75% stated that their organisation isn’t gaining as much value as it could from analysing patient data: a relatively simple way to make technology work for you. Sadly, the need to cut costs is not going to disappear and neither is the need to improve patient care. IT has huge potential to transform the way in which the NHS helps patients: IT departments must not only lead this transformation but also ensure that senior management understands exactly what IT can do. The NHS has been an example to the world for 64 years: we need to ensure it stays that way.”

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