It’s worth spending a moment just taking in its size. With 1.7 million employees it ranks 5th in the world’s largest organisations (you can guess the first four!). Its budget is £95 billion ($146 billion). There are 8,000 GPs (family doctors) grouped into 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that purchase services for citizens. GPs are technically not employees of the NHS, but rather independent, contracted practitioners. The 211 CCGs are supported by 19 Commissioning Support Groups, whose functions include IT services. The budget for CCGs is £65 billion per annum.
NHS England commissions some services directly, such as specialised services (£11.8 billion), primary care, prison healthcare, and Armed Forces healthcare.
So, in the ‘new’ NHS, pride of place goes to clinical leaders, principally, doctors. The idea being that they are best placed to know and understand their patients and hence to purchase services on their behalf; a bit like an insurance broker.
NHS England is governed by various documents that set out what it must do. These are the ‘laws’ that the executives within the NHS must obey. The three most relevant ones to IT suppliers are:
Choice and Competition. Any qualified provider can supply services to the NHS. Of course, this has always been the case to some extent (think of GPs above!), but the general expectation is that more and more independent organisations will enter the market
Health and Social Care Information Strategy. “Only with world class information systems will the NHS deliver world class care.” (Jeremy Hunt, Secretary for Health)
Patient Safety. Electronic systems can improve patient safety by having the right information at the right time at the fingertips of the clinician and patient.
Everything the IT industry does in healthcare, must be framed by the desire to improve patient care. We all are, or will be, patients at some point in our lives. We all have first hand experience of illness, or caring for loved ones who are ill. In short, we have ‘skin in the game’.