First posted 21st July 2004:
These pdfs (N3_roadshow_part_1_v1-0.pdf to N3_roadshow_part_4_v1-0.pdf) of Powerpoint presentations give a rapid flavour of the NHS IT project.
1) The N3 network itself, provided by BT N3SP is straightforward stuff. This is all established technology, so nothing to get excited about.
2) One thing to note is that the N3 guys are somewhat annoyed to find themselves phoning GP surgeries to arrange an appointment to install equipment, only to discover that no-one at the surgery has even heardof N3!
3) The frightening aspect of all this is that the total project timescale, for ALL deliverables is only three years. Frankly, this is totally insane!
4) There are four key projects sitting on top of the N3 network:
a) Electronic Booking Service.
b) Electronic transmission of prescriptions.
c) Picture Archiving Communication Systems (i.e. X-rays, etc).
d) NHS Care Records Service.
Project a) is really quite simple. SchlumbergerSema got the £64.5 million contract in October 2003. It ought to be fully rolled out in England by end of 2005. The only dodgy part of it is likely to be how the information at the hospital end gets into it. Also, exactly how is a patient making an appointment while visiting the GP, by phone or over the Internet supposed to decide which of their half-dozen choices of hospital to go to is the right one? What information will there be to inform the choice?
Projects b) and c) ought to be ok, too (although I need more time to investigate them to be sure).
The reason none of these is too scary is because the technology is mature, and they do not change the social framework to a significant degree.
Project d) is the "killer app". The BMA has already declared that it will not co-operate with it, stating that it has not been adequately consulted about it, and is unconvinced that patient confidentiality is adequately protected. This is the one fraught with risk!
I will investigate further and keep everyone posted.
PS I uploaded the four files, named as above, but am not quite sure where they have ended up! Perhaps Richard could throw some light on this?