Following the publication in May 2012 of the new, and long-awaited, information strategy for the NHS in England (1), a draft of the new business plan for NHS Informatics, and an accompanying official document from the Department of Health (DH 2012, June 28), suggest that national responsibility for delivery is likely to be split across at least three separate organisations (3). Reports in Ehealth Insider, based on a copy of the NHS Informatics draft business plan seen by the publication, indicate that the Department of Health, the NHS Commissioning Board, and the Health and Social Care Information Centre will each have roles, and that an “NHS Informatics Futures Board has been set up to oversee the division” of functions. It is also suggested (4) that NHS Connecting for Health (CfH) will close at the end of March 2013.
The draft business plan envisages a reduction in the number of “centrally funded informatics staff”, although with the possibility of new jobs at local levels to handle delivery of the changes. One of the larger risks to success of the changes identified in the strategy is that there will need to be “greater skills and capacity in ‘local’ NHS organisations” and that this may not appear. (3) In respect of the division of responsibilities, it is reported that:
- a new external relations department at the Department of Health will take on responsibility for information policy and making sure that a “joined, up, patient-centred approach is taken across health and social care.”;
- the NHS Commissioning Board will work with the department and the new Public Health England to “commission and sponsor” national infrastructure, applications, services, standards and information governance” and encourage best practice; and
- the ‘new’ Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) will collect, analyse and present national data on health and social care and “manage and monitor the day to day delivery of national systems and services”, while also approving and accrediting national and local IT standards against technical and clinical standards (3).
The NHS Connecting for Health website (http://www.connectingforhealth.nhs.uk/newsroom/news/infofuture) provides a new document, titled “Informatics: The future. An organisational summary” (2) that provides essentially the same division of activity, noting also that locally, “NHS providers will have greater autonomy in the future. Decisions will be taken as close as possible to the front line, unless there is a single clear need across the NHS” (2) This document also notes that the NHS Commissioning Board will have responsibility for areas such as information standards, to “ensure that appropriate information standards are developed, maintained and implemented in the NHS and in partnership with other bodies in the system that enable the principle of information sharing across the health and social care system.” However, as with many other aspects of informatics in the NHS, the other bodies, such as the HSCIC, also have roles in areas such as information standards, and the overlaps and distinctions do not yet seem fully clear.
- Department of Health (DH) (2012a, 21 May) The power of information: Putting all of us in control of the health and care information we need. London: Department of Health. Available online at
- Department of Health (DH) (2012b, June 28) Informatics: The future. An organisational summary. London: Department of Health, NHS Informatics Transition Programme. Available online at https://www.wp.dh.gov.uk/publications/files/2012/07/Informatics-the-future_final.pdf
- Whitfield, L (2012a, July 09) NHS Informatics to be pulled in three. Ehealth Insider. Available online at http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/EHI/7893/nhs-informatics-to-be-pulled-in-three
- Whitfield, L (2012b, July 09) End game for Davis and CfH announced. Ehealth Insider. Available online at http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/ehi/7892/end-game-for-davis-and-cfh-announced