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DH tightens grip on informatics policy

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The government has moved to strengthen its grip on the NHS’s informatics policy by making a key policy group directly accountable tothe Department of Health, LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal has learned.


It comes at a time it is being claimed a “turf war” is taking place for control of the policy area involving the DH, NHS England and the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The DH’s intervention concerns the informatics services commissioning group, a key policy group that includes senior figures from the DH, NHS England and the information centre.

It had previously been unclear to which body the group was accountable but it was widely assumed that the fact its chair came from NHS England meant that organisation held the most influence over it.

The group was told last month it would be renamed the “national information board” following a “governance and accountability governance review” and that the “new arrangements” would be implemented from April.

Minutes from the group’s January board meeting said Karen Wheeler, the DH’s new informatics accountable officer, told the group it “had developed at such a pace that it was showing evidence of growing pains”.

“The national information board will work for the entire system and be directly accountable to the Department of Health, Ms Wheeler said. “The intention is to rapidly implement to move to the new arrangements by April 2014.”  

NHS England national director for patients and information Tim Kelsey will continue to lead the group and has been handed the title “national information director”.

A DH spokesman said: “The proposed national information board is leading on a system-wide information and technology strategy under the overall direction of the national information director.”

The news follows predictions that the information centre’s move to draft its own technology strategy for the NHS will put it on a collision course with NHS England.

The move was outlined in the information centre’s business plan for 2013-15, discussed by its board in October and formally published last month.

The document said: “Over the next 18 months we will develop, with our partners, a national technology and data strategy… to be published in summer 2015.”

A well-informed source told HSJ a “turf war” was intensifying between the two bodies and the DH over NHS technology.

NHS England’s business plan for 2013-14 to 2015-16, published last May, said it was producing a technology strategy that would “set the direction for NHS technology and informatics”.


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