logo.JPGNational Programme for IT

The National Programme for IT was established in 2002 by the National Health Service (England's universal health care provider) in order to setup a network of patient information and resources in order for the hospitals around the country to use. Considering that each week more than 6 million people in England visit their general practitioners, this is a monumental task that the English government is undertaking. Costs of the project were initially estimated at £6.2 billion over ten years, and have recently been changed to £12.4 billion. But third party estimates have stated that the ten year cost has ballooned up to more than £20 billion. A National Programme of IT spokesperson said "The savings and other benefits of the NPfIT will outweigh its costs, not just in terms of finances. It's also about patient safety and improvements to patient care."

Key Products

  • Health Space - A website that will allow patients to access their medical information.
  • The NHS Care Records Service - Will help decrease time spent by medical professionals searching for patient information through the use of EHRs, which they call "Summary Care Records."
    • A subprogram of the Care Records Service is the "Spine," which is broken down into three different parts:
      • The Personal Demographics Service - Basic demographic information and NHS number.
      • The Personal Spine Information Service - Clinical information such as drug allergies.
      • The Secondary Uses Service - Uses patient records anonymously for statistics used in research and planning.
    • A web based application, called the Clinical Spine Application, that will allow medical professionals to access information within the Spine services.
  • Choose and Book - An online hospital appointment application.
  • Electronic Transmission of Prescriptions - This will enable doctors to send electronic prescriptions directly to the pharmacist, or the chemist as they are called in England.
  • N3 - A national broadband network that much of the Programme's initiatives will utilize. It is estimated to the N3 will save £900 million in the span of seven years and will be one of the largest Virtual Private Networks in the world.
  • Picture Archiving and Communication Systems - A system for storing and sharing images such as X-Rays, PET scans, and ultrasounds.
  • Quality Management and Analysis System - The payment system for the general practitioners.
  • NHSmail - A single e-mail service for the NHS. When completed NHSmail will have well over one million users, making it the largest private, single-domain, secured e-mail service in the world.


In order to spread out the workload of undertaking such a huge project, the Programme has localized many of the smaller tasks, such as picture archiving, by breaking the country into five different clusters. Each cluster has been subcontracted to a different company in order to make sure that there are enough resources in each cluster to get the job done.


All data is accurate as of October 1, 2007.
  • 5,355,857 bookings have been made with Choose and Book, with 85% of general practitioners using it to refer their patients to hospitals.
  • 41,181,635 prescriptions have been sent electronically.
  • 1.2 million NHS employees have access to the N3 broadband network, with over 99% of all general practitioners connected to it.
  • 75% of trusts (primary care, hospitals, ambulances and metal health institutes) are using Picture Archiving and Communication Systems.


If it succeeds as intended, the National Programme for IT can become an example for the world of how having a well thought out and implemented Health Informatics system can benefit a nation. Not only can it cut costs across the board, but also increase citizens' happiness with their health care, help discover help trends to increase the prevention of various illnesses, and countless more. Also, if successful, it can help display to other countries the benefits of a universal health care system, but if it fails it can only contribute to hurt its image.

Web Resources

Choose and Book
Electronic Prescription Service
NHS Care Records Service

Related Terminology



The National Programme for IT's "Connecting For Health" webpage
Telegraph article "Bill for hi-tech NHS soars to £20 billion"
NHS Mail
The National Programme for IT Implementation Guide
Facts and Figures