Headlines: November 26th, 1998

The Government’s drive towards hi-tech, high quality National Health Service risks failure unless lessons are learned from mistakes of the Conservative era, according to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research.According to the report, the Conservative Government’s IT strategy failed because it was technology rather than problem driven and because it was dictated by the administrative needs of the internal market. It failed to take account of safety and privacy issues, and it excluded clinicians and other users from a role in IT development.

The authors suggest that – managed properly – IT has the power to revolutionise health care services. For example, telemedicine could allow GPs to check out the latest thinking on illnesses with centres of expertise and carry out routine home visits electronically, using video equipment.

The report predicts that traditional skills of memorising data and diagnosis will become redundant through IT and sophisticated clinical software. In the future doctors will need to evolve from being an encyclopaedia of knowledge to clinical and communications experts.

Jo Lenaghan, editor of the report said: ‘The government’s information strategy for the NHS is a good starting point, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that mistakes of the past will not be repeated.’

Rethinking IT and Health’ is published by the Institute for Public Policy Research and is available from Central Books on 0181 986 5488.