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Langlands defends NHS information technology strategy

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7195.1371b (Published 22 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1371
  1. Jane Dudman
  1. London

    Alan Langlands, chief of the NHS Executive, was due to appear before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday (as the journal went to press) to defend the NHS strategy on information technology, after criticism had been voiced by the National Audit Office (NAO).

    Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, says in his report (The 1992 and 1998 Information Management and Technology Strategies of the NHS Executive) that the Labour government's 1998 strategy has made certain improvements on the Conservatives' strategy of six years earlier.

    But he criticises the lack of specific, measurable objectives and targets, which he says are necessary to monitor spending and achievements. The report expresses concern that, as with the 1992 strategy, there is no overall business case for the strategy and recommends that when business cases are produced for individual projects, they should address inter-dependencies between them. The office also says it wants to see clearer plans for evaluating the strategy.

    The report comes at a time of considerable debate about information technology within the NHS. In April, the government announced the merging of the UK standard on medical terms, the Read codes, with the US standard, the Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED), through a joint Anglo-American enterprise to standardise healthcare terms throughout the English speaking world.

    The agreement, endorsed by the Royal Colleges and leading clinicians, is important in getting a step closer to the government's goal that everyone in the country should have an electronic health record by 2005.

    The government has allocated £1.8m ($2.9m) a year for the next three years for NHS work on developing a joint terminology.

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