Upbeat prospects for NHS IT market
Market forecasts suggest that that English hospitals are to increase their IT spending in the next three years. The EHI Intelligence 2011 NHS Market Forecast Report predicts that trusts will raise their spend by 3.7%, creating a market worth £883m by 2014-15.

The news reflects the swift opening up of the NHS IT market with the dismantling of much of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT). EHI says some trusts are pursuing strategic IT projects to achieve greater gains in delivering patient care and making the organisation run more efficiently. Others are less committed or convinced.

Three broad groups of trust are identified in the report:
• Innovators – see the real value of IT and are pursuing strategic projects in support of trust goals.
• Make do and menders – investing in essential upgrades and bolt-ons, keep existing systems going and add tactically to their IT estate.
• Laggards – deferring investments and extending maintenance and service contracts, eking out IT budgets and accepting cutbacks.

Private firm’s £1bn deal to run NHS hospital
Hinchingbrooke is to become the first NHS general hospital fully run by a private company. The 10-year deal with Circle is worth £1 billion. The BBC says Circle claims that services will be maintained at the struggling Cambridgeshire hospital.

The deal, which starts in February, will see £40 million of debts remain with the NHS, though Circle – which provides the NHS with services such as hip replacement centres – will take on future financial risks. Hinchingbrooke is one of about 20 hospitals in England facing an uncertain future because of deep financial problems.

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If Circle maintains the range and standards of care at Hinchingbrooke, but cuts costs, it could put pressure on NHS managers at other hospitals to do the same. Unions, however, predict job cuts and describe the takeover by a new team with no prior experience as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

Lansley backs chief clinical information officer campaign
Health secretary Andrew Lansley has endorsed the E-Health Insider campaign to encourage trusts to appoint chief clinical information officers. CCIOs would provide a strong clinical lead on IT projects. A series of Highland Marketing clients are already supporting the campaign, which is seen as an excellent way to improve patient outcomes through the best use of clinical IT.

Mr Lansley declared his backing for CCIOs during the annual EHI Live event. He said: ‘Clinical leadership is critical to making health service information available as a tool for improving outcomes.’ The backing came as two new CCIO appointments were confirmed in London and Manchester.

Sharper focus needed for cancer research
Future research into oesophageal cancer should focus on individual therapy strategies such as genetic receptor mutations, according to a new study. This was the conclusion of a review of clinical trials using second-line chemotherapy and/or targeted therapies which has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The work, which covers 25 published trials from 1996-2011, says treatment response rates tended to be low and overall survival disappointing – at 4-11.4 months.

US medical record security worries
Worrying levels of medical identity theft, plus widespread failure to carry out security audits, have been revealed by a new survey in the USA. The fourth annual HIMSS security survey also shows that a quarter of survey respondent fail to carry out an annual risk assessment. Many healthcare organisations are looking at investing in new security systems to prevent loss or ensure that data is encrypted. Spending on information security, however, was low at around 3% of overall IT budgets.

News in Brief
NHS is best: The Commonwealth Fund ranks the NHS among the world’s best for chronic and serious illness. The Telegraph says a new survey finds that Britons have about the fastest GP access, best co-ordinated care, and fewest medical errors. This is despite health spending being the third lowest of the 11 high income countries surveyed, at £2,170 per head compared with £4,950 in the US.

Painful price of painkillers: The NHS in England spent £440m last year on painkillers. Some doctors spent thousands prescribing over-the-counter painkillers like Anadin according to the BBC. On average, trusts spent £8.80 per head of population on analgesics, but in some northern towns it was as high as £15.

Bed blockers up 11%: DH figures show an 11% rise in hospital days lost to bed blocking, with numbers hitting 128,517 for September and October. The Telegraph claims this means a daily bill for the NHS of £537,000 or £255 per patient.

Online ache-buster: Sheffield GPs are referring musculoskeletal patients to a new website with information to manage their condition. HSJ reports that the Sheffield Aches and Pains online tool, and associated sites, had 5,000 hits in the first month.

Data sharing saves millions: The sharing of electronic patient information across major emergency departments in Memphis, USA, is saving $2 million a year according to Healthcare IT News. Clinicians only use electronic system in around 7% of cases, suggesting far more could be achieved if use increased.

Integrate to save: The NHS Confederation and Faculty for Public Health have issued a report calling for a whole person and community-wide integrated approach between the NHS and social services. This, they claim, is the key to better health and higher savings.

In praise of the programme: DH director general of IT, Katie Davis, has called for a fair appraisal of the progress made in the last decade thanks to the National Programme for IT.

Health blogs
The Patient from Hell blog in the Guardian Professional Network fears that the Government’s Information Revolution may turn into a damp squib – GP commissioners just have too much else to worry about.
‘I can’t quite see GPs being willing or able to drive large information projects. They are too busy curing patients for a start. And few of them have the imagination to dream up and see through innovative uses of information. Nor will they have the clout to build the cooperative networks among themselves, local hospitals and social care organisations that will lead to sunny integrated uplands.’

As the results of ambitious £30-million telehealth and telecare field trials are being published, Nick Goodwin of the King’s Fund looks at what has been learned about using new technologies to support the remote management of long-term conditions.
‘A cultural shift is required away from ‘evidence-based practice’ towards accepting the value of ‘practice-based evidence’, enabling organisations to implement technologies on a larger scale. Producing evidence on the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of telehealth is never going to be enough to formulate a strong business case for change. Rather, what is needed is a clearer understanding of the operational processes that are required at an organisational, clinical and service level that will ensure commissioners and providers make the right decisions.’

Europe-wide SME contest
The search is about to begin for Europe’s best SME e-health solution. TICBioMed, supported by the EC’s ICT for Health Unit, is setting up a competition which will select the best entries from participating countries before choosing an overall champion. Winners will benefit from raised visibility plus valuable marketing opportunities. Email jorge.gonzalez@ticbiomed.net for information.

Highland Marketing blog
Read Susan Venables’ reflections on this week’s EHI Live event which saw the healthcare IT sector gather for two days in sunny Brum.

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