NHS Wales Informatics Service heavily criticised for focus on “outdated” IT


The NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS) has been heavily criticised  for its focus on running “outdated” IT systems.

The National Assembly for Wales’ Public Accounts Committee published a report which looked into IT systems being used in the Welsh NHS.

In his foreword, committee chair Nick Ramsay said the fact NHS Wales “still refers to its digital programme as informatics” shows “how dated its approach is”.

He added: “We believe that NWIS is primarily focused on running outdated IT systems.

“At a time when the potential of digital healthcare is capturing the imagination and improving patient outcomes, just 10% of NWIS activities are focused on innovation.

“Our inquiry has raised serious questions about the competence, capability and capacity across the health system to deliver a digital transformation in Welsh healthcare.”

The cross-party report sets out a number of recommendations.

This includes representatives of the Welsh Government updating the committee on progress every six months.

Ramsay added that he hoped the Assembly’s report will serve as a “wake-up call” to those involved in introducing innovation to healthcare in Wales.

Another recommendation is reviewing the skillset and governance of senior leaders within both NWIS and the wider NHS Digital team.

This is due to the committee’s deep concerns surrounding the 21 outages at data centres in Wales in the first six months of 2018, which equates to one outage every nine days.

This includes an incident in January 2018 when there was a widespread network failure at two NHS data centres.

In response Peter Saul, the Royal College of GPs Wales’ joint chair, said the report needs to “kickstart a process that improves digital technology in the Welsh NHS”.

He added: “Quite clearly this report raises some alarming findings about the weaknesses of IT in the Welsh NHS, findings which may look familiar to those working in it.

“Today, IT systems are as critical to clinicians as stethoscopes and scanners. Data outages can be extraordinarily disruptive for practices and for patients. They affect appointments, prescriptions and the nuts and bolts of a functioning practice and can take hours to recover from.

“Unfortunately these data outages are becoming all too common, leaving GPs scrambling to find solutions or workarounds while waiting rooms fill up.

“Embracing safe, reliable and innovative technology will be vital for the future of healthcare, but that will be undermined if the Welsh NHS cannot get its IT right.”

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