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What will happen to NHS supplier contracts if power is devolved? August 30, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in Government, IT Services, Outsourcing.
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The NHS is under fire once again. This time it’s a familiar story, the need to eliminate the swathes of red tape and middle management that prevent nurses and doctors doing their jobs.

This is a familiar refrain. If may be more shrill now the government is led by the Conservative party, but even the previous administration used to talk of devolving power to the frontline care-givers. Yet, how will that latest proposals affect the NHS and particularly the huge array of technology contracts that had been agreed over the past couple of years?

First, it’s never as easy as just wiping out red tape. Devolving budgets to each individual GP or hospital sounds great in practice, but if a doctor is to spend most of his or her time on the frontline with patients then they actually need some of those administrators – without the admin team, the doctor is going to be poring over spreadsheets all day.

It’s important to identify waste and red tape – nobody can dispute that – but the elimination of administrators can go too far. And the devolvement of budget responsibility could have further implications for centrally controlled programmes.

Connecting for Health may be maligned, but it’s supporters would argue that this is because it is an immense programme of work, creating a communications network between GPs, hospitals, and pharmacies, allowing a truly joined-up health service to operate. That level of complexity does take time to get right, but in a devolved world it would be impossible to plan for such a grand vision of how the NHS could operate.

The NHS currently works with a joint venture firm, NHS Shared Business Services, to offer finance and accounting services back into the primary care trusts. What will happen to ventures like this if the PCTs are abolished?

There is much to applaud in the new government plans to rid the NHS of waste, but there are many areas that could change in a negative way if these plans are not thought through in detail.
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Comments»

1. Alison Joyce - November 30, 2010

Thoroughly agree, there has to be balance. Certainly sifting through the waste on the NHS can only benefit us but letting go of many of their technology contracts could be detrimental. This article is poignant particularly in light of David Cameron’s recent comments, where he singled out technology and innovation centres as one of the driving vehicles for economic recovery…


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