A few weeks ago, the UK's National Health Service's (NHS) admitted that its vision for a national electronic health record (EHR) system was falling apart at the seams. In its stead, the government decided that it would rely on its summary care record (SCR) system. An SCR, according to the NHS, contains important information about a patient's health, such as details of any allergies, current prescriptions and whether the patient has had any bad reactions to medicines.
The government has been in a rush to upload millions of patient records into it SCR system (also generally known as the Spine) to at least demonstrate that not all of its EHR efforts have been in vain. So much of a rush, in fact, that the British Medical Association (BMA) in March called for a halt because of the lack of sufficient information available to NHS patients for them to understand fully what uploading their medical files meant and their options for opting out of the scheme. Others complained that the information being uploaded was full of inaccuracies and omissions which needed correcting before they were uploaded wholesale.
About two weeks ago, the government decided that in the face of increasing complaints, it would suspend the accelerated uploading of patient files to the Spine, although there are reports that in some cases uploading is still occurring.
Tony Collins at ComputerWeekly.com and who follows the NHS EHR program closely notes in his blog that the SCR system business case still has not been approved HM Treasury, three years after the project began. As he notes, "The Treasury approves business cases when the full costs have been identified and justified, when there is proven support from stakeholders, and the benefits are clear, though the Treasury allows for some assumptions to be made."
This lack of approval of the SCR business case implies that the SCR effort may still on shaky ground, and that the scheme may not provide the expected value for all the money being spent on it, which is likely to top £1 billion. The SCR could look like a juicy IT project to terminate to the next government, assuming the Labour Party loses the general election next month.
Tony Collins also says that the final University College London report commissioned by the government to evaluate the SCR system (an initial report was published in 2008) and that was supposed to be delivered about now will not be published until after the election.
You can draw your own conclusions as to why that decision was taken.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.