Magazine article Public Finance

Choose and Lose

Magazine article Public Finance

Choose and Lose

Article excerpt

The news thai Patient Choice is to be extended to foundation hospitals and, later this year, to private clinics will be welcomed by many patients and NHS managers.

Despite misgivings from the unions and Labour backbenchers about 'rigging the market', many would agree with health minister Andy Burnham that no-one should have to accept a get-what-you're-given' culture. Patients should have more choice over where and when they are treated.

Of course, the government could certainly do with a good news health story, after seeing the Conservatives edge ahead on the NI IS for the first time.

But there is a catch. Patients' ability to choose is likely to be restricted by major delays to the NHS's £20bn IT initiative.

That much was admitted this week by health service reform minister Lord Warner, and in a statement released to Pubic Finance by the IT programme Connecting for Health.

One of the new system's central pillars, the electronic patient health record, is two-and-a-half years behind schedule, because of delays in software development.

E-records are vital to the success of the choice policy. But they are unlikely to be in place before 2008 - the year patients were meant to have an unlimited choice of provider. …

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