Key NHS IT Programmes – UCL report

28 June 2010


With a new Government reviewing Connecting for Health (CfH) and health IT policy more generally, a major evaluation of the Summary Care Record and HealthSpace, two key systems that CfH is charged to deliver, comes at the right time.

But the conclusions do not offer any easy answers, as the report's title, "The devil's in the detail" (full text available here <>; executive summary available here <>), makes clear. The project, which has also produced this accompanying BMJ paper <>, was led by Prof. Trish Greenhalgh, who recently moved from UCL to Queen Mary, University of London. Co-authors include CHIME's Henry Potts and Emma Byrne, plus former CHIME member, Katja Stramer.

The study found that progress in the programmes was delayed by several 'wicked' (pervasive and seemingly insoluble) problems, including the difficulty of defining a 'minimal dataset' of key medical data, ensuring that GP records were complete and accurate and the need for informed consent from 50 million people (many of whom appeared to throw away the information letter unread). Thus, benefits to date had been much more moderate than initial hope or rhetoric.

But more than that, the research found that, while many stakeholders shared a broad vision for a national electronic record system, making this vision a reality required collaboration across very different worlds: political, clinical, technical, commercial and personal.

CHIME researcher, Dr Henry Potts said that he hoped the lessons learned from the English experience would be taken on board in the US as they begin to look at electronic records and that the "baby wasn't thrown out with the bath water" in England. "There are benefits to be realised here and just because it’s more difficult than was expected doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing."

Contact: Henry Potts

Links: UCL News story

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