When Jeremy Hunt unveiled a £1bn cash injection to boost NHS patient care through IT earlier today, he alluded to the NHS Programme of IT (NPfIT) when he said that the public are rightly sceptical about NHS IT after "the disastrous waste" that has happened in the past.
But much has changed since the move away from NPfIT, and its latest announcement is centred on new systems that aim to enable hospitals, GP surgeries and out-of-hours doctors to share access to patients' records.
Ovum analyst Charlotte Davies believes that the NHS is taking a step in the right direction with its information strategy but that it needs to strike a balance.
"The ideal scenario is that you have a clear framework, have a mandated use of standards and a certain approach to [tell NHS trusts] how they should link their information systems but in terms of choosing systems' suppliers and integrating at a local level - there needs to be more of a balance between the two," she said.
The "bottom up" approach that the Department of Health (DoH) intends to take involves specifying the requirements for interoperability, rather than ripping everything out and starting from scratch like the NPfIT.
Hunt said that the aim by 2015 was to have primary and secondary care sharing information, and that eventually all areas of the DoH would be able to share and access information.
But Davies said that the standards landscape within healthcare IT is fragmented, and although things like the interoperability toolkit are steps in the right direction, the health sector needs to have standards that are conformed to by a vast majority of departments in order to have a real impact.
Gayna Hart, managing director at systems integrator Quicksilva, told Computing in April that there were no barriers to integrating the technology involved, but that rather commercial considerations on the part of suppliers were slowing the NHS's progress. These suppliers could ask the NHS for an extortionate amount of money to adjust their systems to become interoperable.
But Davies believes this is all changing.
"We're finding that NHS trusts are starting to push back on vendors because they want to avoid getting into an electronic health records (EHR) system that is locked down and that they won't be able to integrate into another information system," she said.