Pressure mounts on NHS patient e-records NPfIT white elephant scheme

The main suppliers to the stalled £12.7bn National Health Service’s NPfIT programme to ­create an electronic record of patients’ records have been given until the end of November to demonstrate real progress in installing the systems in big acute ­hospitals.

If the seven month deadline is not met, “we will look at alternative approaches”, Christine Connelly, the Department of Health’s chief information officer, told the Financial Times.

Asked whether that could involve termination of the billions of pounds’ worth of important contracts held by BT, CSC, Cerner and Isoft, she said: “At this point, we are not ruling anything out.”

She stressed, however, that “it is in all our interests to make the systems and solutions we currently have a success”.

Her comments came as she outlined the latest plan to get back on track the troubled records programme, which is running at least four years late. Under the plan, she said:

  • All hospitals will be given greater freedom to configure the system to their local needs.
  • A “library” of such adaptations will be built, so trusts can choose which version is closest to their requirements and then, if need be, adapt it further.
  • In the south, a nine month competition is to be held to let additional suppliers bid alongside CSC and BT to install and run the record in some 30 trusts where progress was halted after Fujitsu was fired from the programme last May.
  • An approach modelled on Apple’s iPhone “apps store” will be allowed, so that any supplier can provide additional functions. That will mean earlier adopters of the BT and CSC systems will be able to exploit what is installed without having to wait “months or years” for the next software release.
Also, specific deadlines have been set to get Isoft’s and CSC’s most advanced system running in a big acute hospital by the end of November and working smoothly across it by next March. At present the clinical part is running in a handful of clinics and wards, without the full integration with a patient administration system that the new deployment will require.

In London, BT will have to install a Cerner system smoothly in a big hospital – probably Kingston – by the end of November. To date, each installation in London and the south has been dogged by problems.

“The key thing we have communicated to our suppliers is significant progress by the end of November,” Ms Connelly said. By then, “if there is a suggestion that everything is just going to slip and slip, that’s the point where we will draw the line” and “start to look at alternative approaches”.

She did not, she said, “want to talk very much” about what that would involve, and added that detailed plans would have to be drawn up. But “at this point we are not ruling anything out”.

In spite of continued slow progress in the north and a fresh competition in the south, the overall revised timetable of having the record in place across England by 2015 held, she said, as did the budget.

Health Direct is pleased that Christine Connelly, the Department of Health’s chief information officer is preparing to crack the whip.

Though we have been here many times before: on June 09, 2008- NHS NPfIT will be at least four years late– It will be at least 2014 – four years later than planned – before a single NHS electronic patient records NPfIT system is in place in England, say auditors.

And on October 17, 2007- NHS shakes up £12bn IT programme A big revamp of the National Health Service’s £12bn IT programme is under way that will see NHS trusts given more choice of how systems are installed and which software they get.

So we think that another seven months delay in the scheme of things is neither here nor there and Ms Connelly had to say something to justify her £200,000+ salary.

Though we wonder why it has taken her eight months to state the bleeding obvious.

September 26, 2008 NHS appoints new IT supremos The health department has finally appointed replacements for Richard Granger, the National Health Service’s IT supremo, some six months after his departure as head of Connecting for Health, the white elephant health service programme that aims to create an electronic patient record system.

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