Headlines: October 3rd, 2005

There is a new warning that unless the public sector fully engages with e-Government and starts promoting its benefits, it risks undermining the services even before they are operational. It has come from the private company, Primavera, which is a specialist in helping public sector organisations manage long-term projects.Primavera has stepped into the debate about e-Government in the light of reports that all English primary care trusts are set to miss the target for the implementation of an electronic ‘choose and book’ system for hospital outpatients. These, it says, have reignited questions over the validity of e-Government and the transformation of Government IT.

The warning from Primavera comes just days after another company involved in business technology implementation, Mercury Interactive, alerted the public sector to the fact that it was lagging behind business in the integration of IT in its core activities.

Primavera says the programme for implementing ‘choose and book’, which allows patients a choice of hospitals and reduces the time spent waiting for a hospital appointment after visiting a GP, has been delayed by patient record integration problems, as well as fierce resistance from GPs and hospital staff. As a result, it says, just 8,000 patients have been booked through the system in the past 14 months even though millions of outpatient appointments are made every year.

David Oates, from the company said, “Failure to deliver the new system could impact on the quality of care afforded to patients, and with so much taxpayers’ money at stake, organisations have got to do more to push the new electronic services out to patients.” To be effective, ‘choose and book’ needs the co-operation of the majority of NHS organisations within a strategic health authority. Primavera says integration problems have turned many staff against the new system and the Department of Health has already issued a template allowing GPs to book appointments manually.

In the light of these problems the company is advising IT managers to invest in monitoring tools that can identify potential integration problems before they arise.