Jeremy Hunt has announced that US doctor Bob Wachter will lead review into IT in the NHS
The Department of Health (DoH) is bringing in a US doctor and author who has criticised hospital IT systems to lead a review on the digital future of the NHS.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) announced the move last week with a brief mention at the end of a statement on providing more power to patients.
He said that Professor Bob Wachter, interim chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, will conduct the review, focusing on “lessons we need to learn to ensure that we move forward smoothly to a digital future”.
A spokesperson for the DoH told UKAuthority that the terms of reference and timescale for the review are still to be finalised, but that it is expected to be delivered some time next year.
“It’s going to look at how NHS trusts have used IT systems, the successes and failures and what has been learned,” he said.
Wachter is the author The Digital Doctor, published earlier this year, which examines the rise of IT systems in healthcare with a degree of scepticsm. Although it acknowledges the benefits, it also suggests that computerisation has caused new problems, led to some prescribing errors and that physicians have become “data entry clerks”.
So far the government has been cautious about investing in any major digital programme for the NHS on the scale of the National Programme for IT, initiated by the Labour government in the early 2000s. But in 2013 Hunt outlined an ambition for the NHS to go paperless by 2018, with compatible electronic records for patients so their health information could be used by different health and social care organisations.
A year earlier, Tim Kelsey, then national director of patients and information at the NHS Commissioning Board, set a target date of this year for a paperless health service.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0