UK Abandons National Health Records System

By: Absolute Team | 8/15/2011

Back in 2007, we wrote how the UK government had £13bn set aside to digitize the medical records of all 50 million patients in Britain by 2010 under a centralized National Health Service (NHS) system, the National Programme for IT. After 9 years and £11bn ($18 billion) spent, the centralized computer system project is being abandoned. Official news is speculated to be delivered next month.

A story earlier this month by the Independent suggests that, instead of a centralized system, local health trusts and hospitals will be allowed to develop or buy their own computer systems to suit their individual needs. To meet the desired goal of centralizing data, a smaller central server will still be put forth.

The project has run into lengthy delays, changing specifications, technical challenges and issues with suppliers. It appears that the "one-size-fits-all" technical plan was beset by too many issues and obstacles to make it practical in both the short- and long-term. A report by the Commons Select Committee on the status of the project was said to be the impetus towards making this decision, where they stated:

"The Department of Health is not going to achieve its original aim of a fully integrated care records system across the NHS. Trying to create a one-size-fits-all system in the NHS was a massive risk and has proven to be unworkable."

A lot had been said about the potential security pitfalls of a centralized NHS system, though I can also foresee issues in security and accountability continuing to be a problem for all of these disparate systems.

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