William Eichler 15 October 2020

Welsh councils spend ‘several millions of pounds’ extra on shared electronic record

The implementation and roll-out of a community care information system in Wales is taking much longer and proving costlier than expected, auditors say.

The Welsh Community Care Information System (WCCIS) was developed to enable health and social care staff to deliver more efficient and effective services using a shared electronic record.

The intention for the system was that all seven health boards and twenty-two local authorities in Wales would implement it through a contract signed in March 2015.

As of 31 August 2020, 19 organisations were using WCCIS or had signed deployment orders, with four in active negotiation and six yet to commit. Of the 19 organisations, 13 local authorities and two health boards had gone live.

A report published today by the Auditor General for Wales has found that there are differences in how organisations are choosing to deploy WCCIS. It warned this was limiting opportunities for integrated working.

Key aspects of the expected functionality have been significantly delayed, the auditors learnt, although this includes certain enhancements to the original contractual requirements.

It is now estimated that the remaining updates to WCCIS will be delivered on a phased basis through to the end of 2021.

The costs for implementing and rolling out the system have also been more than expected and additional investment has been needed to support related service transformation, according to the report.

Just over £30m has been spent or committed to March 2022 by the Welsh government and NHS Wales Informatics Service (NWIS). However, health boards and local authorities have had to invest what the auditors estimate to be ‘several millions of pounds’ extra from their own budgets.

Auditor General, Adrian Crompton, commented: ‘The potential benefits of a shared electronic record across health and social care are clear to see; even more so given some of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘However, the Welsh government’s ambitious vision for WCCIS is still a long way from being realised. It now needs to work with the various organisations involved to take stock of expectations for the remainder of the contract term and the resources and wider commitment needed to support progress.’

Dave Street, Senior Responsible Owner (SRO), WCCIS National Programme & Director of Social Services, Caerphilly County Borough Council & Carol Shillabeer, SRO, WCCIS National Programme & Chief Executive, Powys Teaching Health Board, said: 'WCCIS is a long term programme and it’s encouraging that 15 local authorities and health boards have already gone live with the system and are seeing the benefits. A further seven organisations are also working with us to join the system as soon as possible.

'Given the ambition in Wales of achieving an integrated system, there has been significant investment and the national programme spending is in line with predicted costs.

'We remain committed to the vision of rolling out the system across Wales and are actively working in partnership with organisations to make this happen.'

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