Repated failures in the National Health Service's IT strategy will finally come under the audit microscope at the end of this month.
The National Audit Office review comes at a bad time for the NHS Executive, which is about to appoint a chief executive for the new NHS Information Authority. The review's conclusions are intended to benefit the current strategy, launched last September.
Roger Wallhouse, the former head of leading NHS IT supplier SMS UK, welcomed the inquiry but HE said the same mistakes were being repeated because of interference from the Department of Health.
"There is too much ring-fencing of money," he said. "The NHS should set standards and leave industry to work out solutions this time."
The previous strategy was a five-year plan, launched in December 1992, to build an electronic infrastructure to cut management costs. It ran up massive delays in introducing key elements: the NHS network, patient numbers, a patient administrative database and integrated hospital computing.
But project managers did hit some targets, with 90 per cent of GPs computerised by the end of 1995 - although many systems do not support network connections.
NHS chief executive Alan Langlands last week hit back at his critics. Opening the Healthcare Computing 99 conference, he said: "Our past record has been cluttered with criticism, some fair, some very unfair. Only the scrutineers have the benefit of hindsight."
For further stories see 1 April issue of Computing
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