Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (19)

Seymour Crawford


141 Mr. Crawford asked the Minister for Health and Children when the information health strategy promised for 2001 will be published. [1549/04]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Minister for Health and Children)

The draft memorandum for Government for the national health information strategy was circulated to Departments for observations in December 2003. My Department is currently considering the observations received with a view to an early submission to the Government of the national health information strategy.

I am a bit concerned about this issue. The reason the question was tabled is that the health information strategy is now three years overdue. Following the strategy, I presume some sort of a plan for its implementation must be drawn up, yet there is neither strategy nor plan in place. I welcome the fact that a considerable sum of money has been allocated this year for investment in an information strategy for the health service. As the Minister is aware, this has been grossly lacking and it has resulted in very expensive mistakes being made in regard to the absence of data.

Has a decision been made on how to spend the money allocated for this year? Has it been made in the absence of an overall plan, given that this is a once-off investment which will determine how the system can be administered and the kind of information that will be available for making decisions in the future? It is vital to have a coherent plan in place for the spending of the money. Have tenders been sought for a contract? What is the brief? Where is it intended to spend the money? Have outstanding issues regarding privacy, human rights and so on been resolved? How and when does he expect the money to be spent?

It is not three years. The health strategy was concluded in November 2001, which amounts to a year.

It is now 2004.

If something ends at the end of one year and is moved to the first month of the next year, it becomes three years.

Widespread consultation was necessary with various Government Departments, hospitals and the health system generally. There were significant issues in regard to the Data Protection Office such as the utilisation of the PPS number which still requires a resolution. That necessitated a certain amount of work. The work is done on the strategy. We ringfenced significant additional funding for the implementation of the health information strategy, beginning in 2004. It is not once-off funding. Significant ongoing funding will be required.

On the Deputy's question, although it does not affect the national health information strategy, tenders went out for a specific software package in terms of the collection of information on hospital activities. No decision has been taken on accepting or spending the money. I can supply the Deputy with further information.

I would appreciate that.