The Transition From Spine To Spine 2 - A Success Story Or Yet Another NHS IT Failure?

Sooraj Shah | Computing | September 17, 2014

Since the winding down of what had been described by MPs as the “worst and most expensive contracting fiasco in the history of the public sector”, the National Programme of IT (NPfIT), little has been left for the NHS to savour.  That is aside from NHS’s Spine, the part of the national infrastructure that stores patient information and enables electronic messaging. The Spine is one of the only parts of the ill-fated NPfIT to have emerged from the disaster with any credibility.

“The Spine was one of the successes around the framework. It was the glue that allowed the NHS organisations to make the right choices,” says James Berry, CTO at healthcare solutions provider Advanced Computer Software Group.  The Spine handled about 400 million electronic messages a month and more than 2.6 billion information requests and amendments each year. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) claims that Spine services and systems were available 99.97 per cent of the time.

So if Spine was such a success, why did the HSCIC feel the need to replace it with NHS Spine 2? The decision revolved around changes to the supply chain as well as preparing the infrastructure for future demand.  The Spine went live more than 10 years ago, and the NHS’s contracts with the suppliers who delivered it were about to end, so some kind of revamp was inevitable...