Headlines: March 24th, 2005

Almost three-quarters of public sector IT managers are concerned that their organisations may not be complying fully with relevant legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act, according to research commissioned by Dell. Six out of ten of those questioned said the steep increase in the amount of legislation was the main reason for their lack of confidence over compliance.Other factors cited by the IT managers were lack of awareness, lack of time and lack of understanding. The research shows the problem exists across the public sector, including government departments, education and health. The results come as the Department for Health announced that the National Programme for IT will become an agency of the Department of Health from April and will be re-named Connecting for Health. Family doctors are also to get a greater choice of computer systems.

According to the Dell research nearly a quarter of IT staff in government bodies felt a lack of understanding was holding them back from complying with legislation and more than a fifth admitted they were unaware or had only sketchy knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act. In the education sector, half of those questioned said lack of understanding was preventing them from complying with legislation. Only seven per cent of education organizations surveyed felt they were fully aware of their compliance obligations and the penalties for not complying.

In the healthcare sector 80 per cent of organisations were not confident they were complying with legislation because of an increase in the amount of regulation and a lack of awareness. Only four per cent of IT managers in the sector felt they were fully aware of their compliance obligations.

Across the public sector as a whole more than half of IT managers reported their costs had increased as a result of having to comply, and that they spend up to 12 per cent of their IT budget ensuring their systems are legislation ready.

Meanwhile the Health Minister John Hutton has unveiled plans for GPs across England to be able to select a wider range of computer systems. They will get the option of using a wider variety of systems, provided the supplier has signed a distribution contract with one of the Health Service’s Local Service Providers.

Mr Hutton said the National Programme for IT had achieved a lot in the two years it had been running, procuring and developing extremely advanced information systems. This investment in IT meant the NHS would deliver safer, higher quality treatment for patients and wider choice of who treated them.

Recent achievements had included the first electronic prescriptions issued by a GP surgery. The surgery, in Keighley, West Yorkshire, was now transmitting more than 900 e-prescriptions a week. Several GP surgeries were now connected to the national data spine and more that 5,000 NHS sites were connected to the new high-speed data network.