NPfIT: Inspiring Doctors to Connect
The National Programme for IT (NPfIT) will give the NHS in England access to the largest network of patient-based information in the world—but many doctors seem unimpressed.
By contrast, they remain enthusiastic about localised IT systems like PACS and specialist departmental systems. Could this be part of the cure for their strategic scepticism?
In Victorian times the views of a doctor and the leader of a great public health project also differed. The sound of the Broad Street pump handle being removed at Dr. John Snow’s insistence on the 8 September 1854 marked the end of an outbreak of cholera in London's Soho. The sound could also have marked the end of cholera in London, if anyone had listened.
The authorities rejected Snow's theories that cholera was transmitted by contaminated water and continued to believe that noxious vapours caused the disease. It was fear of the stench from London’s open sewer the Thames that finally drove Parliament in 1858 to approve Joseph Bazalgette's grand scheme to build a network of sewers across 80 square miles of London.
By 2010 another grand scheme, NPfIT, aims to connect more than 100,000 doctors and 400,000 nurses and other healthcare professionals in England to an IT spine. NPfIT will also provide a care records service, electronic booking of hospital appointments (Choose and Book), picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) and electronic transmission of prescriptions.
With so much in prospect, why is doctors’ support for NPfIT at a low ebb?