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STPs should be prepared to have their IT requests turned down, say NHS leaders

STPs should be prepared to have their IT requests turned down, say NHS leaders

The NHS has warned STP leaders that capital funding is “extremely constrained” ahead of final plan submissions
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The NHS has warned sustainability and transformation plan (STP) leaders that capital funding is “extremely constrained” ahead of final plan submissions.

In letters revealed by Health Service Journal, NHS England and NHS Improvement told STP leaders to be prepared for IT requests to be declined as a result of a lack of funding.

“Whilst we are in the fortunate position to have some capital and revenue to invest in information technology, it is heavily weighted to the back end of the [five year] planning period. You should therefore… have a plan for how you will proceed if we are unable to meet your IT requests,” the letter says.

It adds that national officials plan to focus IT investment on “opportunities to extend and share existing systems”, and on “solutions to enable new primary and community care pathways and integrate health and care systems”.

However, last month Professor Robert Wachter, in charge of conducting a review of computer systems across the NHS, said a paperless NHS was “not possible” by 2020.

Yet he added the NHS would be able to operate “a largely interoperable system by 2020”, with systems that work well together.

The STP plans, which will be submitted in October for review by NHS England, will extend over a five-year period from 2016 to 2021.

The letter adds that if a plan is “capital dependant” it will need to detail the minimum amount of funding required and give “a robust case” on the expected return on investment.

Health officials also encourage STP leaders to “explore other possible sources of funding” in the letter.

Leesa Ewing, commercial director of IMS MAXIMS, a healthcare software provider, said: “Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) present a significant opportunity to deliver financial sustainability and truly transformational change by 2020 for the NHS, but reports on a constrained capital environment from today should not hinder the progress in delivering benefits of digital healthcare.

She added: “There is a concern that digital projects could be put on hold but this doesn’t have to be the case. STPs should think creatively about procurement of IT and look for solutions that offer flexible ways to meet the financial needs of providers.

“There are some great examples – the open source technology approach has helped NHS trusts access vital clinical software, such as an electronic patient record, and reduce upfront licence costs, whilst software developments can also be shared between NHS providers.

“To de-risk IT projects, STPs need to look for off-balance sheet investment options that allow service providers to utilise technology to deliver better, safer patient care, whilst also addressing their run rates.”

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