Mandatory open standards will not close health IT market, DHSC believes


The permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has suggested the department does not have a plan in place to prevent competition in health IT being “driven out”.

Speaking at a Public Accounts Committee on 17 October, Chris Wormald was questioned by MPs about the department’s tech vision policy paper, which was published on the same day.

The paper, named ‘The Future of Healthcare’, proposed that IT suppliers in use in the NHS would have to meet a clear set of open standards to ensure they can talk to each other.

The paper adds that any supplier which fails to do so will be “phased out”.

On this topic, Gareth Snell, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, asked whether DHSC had given any consideration to the fact that this could potentially close the market down “to one or two small providers which meet these standards” which may potentially “drive up costs” by “driving out competition”.

In response, Wormald said he “was struggling to think of a specific thing” DHSC was doing to stop that from happening, adding: “I don’t think we’ve seen that happen”.

He said: “I’m not sure we’ve got anything built-in that actively prevents it, but let me go and check.”

Earlier in the session, Wormald was also questioned about DHSC’s recent estimation for the cost of WannaCry and an update on what has been done since the cyber-attack in May 2017.

In particular, the department was asked about recommendation 19 of NHS England’s CIO, Will Smart’s, lessons learned review which suggests a national ‘cyber rehearsal’ is carried out.

Snell pointed out that the recommendation suggested the rehearsal  happen in Autumn 2018 and asked whether this has taken place.

In response, Wormald said “a series of small tests” had been carried out, but could not confirm whether a national rehearsal had happened.

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