The IM&T Forum is a quarterly meeting held by the NHS Executive Information Management Group (IMG), chaired by Michael Flynn. It has representatives of many bodies in attendance. These include Prescription Pricing Authority, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Royal College of Nursing, British Dental Association, British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners, NHS Wide Networking Group, Family Health Services Computer Unit. The objectives are for the NHS Executive to present current activity to various groups and to provide an opportunity to ask questions, and request information about specific projects to be presented at future meetings.
At the most recent meeting there was a presentation by Sue Knight of IMG-A on community systems for providers (CISP). Of particular relevance to primary care is the intention to increase the scope of the CISP project, in interfacing between community systems and primary care. This is ongoing and will be reported further at future meetings. Of significantly more interest was the presentation by the DISP project, by Peter Dunn and Roger Dewhurst of IMG. DISP stands for Developing Information Systems for Purchasers. This is a facilitating project and up till now has focused on the information requirements of district health authorities. However, with increasing purchasing at primary care level, there is clear recognition that many of the products developed by the DISP team will be of relevance to primary care (general practitioner) purchasers.
Phase 1 was in the year 1990-92: it was a scoping project. Phase 2 started in 1992-93, particularly looking at practical experiences. Phase 3 started in 1993-94 with the aim of demonstrating some of the benefits. Areas looked at have been the improvement in purchasing through effective use of information management and technology. It was highlighted that direct purchasing by health authorities is decreasing with time. The area of strategic development and review has remained relatively constant, as has been monitoring practice activity. However, practice support for purchasing has increased significantly. This is an obviously increasing important area for primary care which we will watch with interest. I will report back at some future date.
The final presentation was by Tony King, head of NHS Networking, who gave a presentation on the main goals of the NHS Wide Networking Programme, which is to be established by the middle of 1996 to enable all NHS organisations to communicate with each other electronically. In addition to this, he indicated the changes to the purchasing of telecommunications in the NHS with the provision of corporate deals for NHS with British Telecom and Mercury. Hopefully all practices have now heard about this but in essence there are potential savings of 20-30% on all communications using telephone lines, cell phones and data communications.
Future meetings will discuss the health telematics programme and the electronic prescribing information available to general practitioners.