Progress with NHS computer systems is measurable in hospitals, general practices and pharmacies across the NHS in England. Despite the challenges associated with all large IT programmes, the connecting for health system is bringing benefits to doctors, nurses and, most importantly, patients.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but hospital patient administrations from the supplier, iSOFT, are still not in place. After an £80 million bung from the NHS, financial meltdown, an investigation of the company and a takeover by the Australians, can the Minister guarantee that hospital software ordered from iSOFT is written, workable and ready for roll-out by 2008, or are we being a tad optimistic?
Progress is good, as the Health Committee accepted in its recent report. There have been delays, but any cost overruns are being borne by not the taxpayer, but the private suppliers. When the private suppliers have been unable to deliver the goods, they have been replaced by other private suppliers.
Yes. One of the criticisms in the Health Committee’s report—we responded to it in full yesterday and almost entirely accepted it—was about the need for better clinician engagement. That is certainly going on across the health service. It is worth the House acknowledging the enormous benefits for not only patients, but health service staff, from having proper IT systems that are integrated and can deliver better patient care.
My hon. Friend will know that to maximise the usefulness of all our health service professionals, especially in primary care, it is essential that we make maximum use of the expertise of pharmacists. What plans has he to ensure that pharmacists will soon have read and write access to patient records, so that we can maximise everyone’s skills in primary care?
Pharmacies’ use of IT for e-prescribing is increasing all the time. My hon. Friend will have to wait a little while, until we publish our pharmacy White Paper, for us to say more about that, but he is right to say that there is enormous potential for pharmacists to deliver better services to patients if they have full access to IT and their access is interoperable with the rest of the health service.