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The devil is in the detail of NHS IT procurement

James Rogers
IT industry body Intellect has given a cautious welcome to the Government's procurement strategy to overhaul NHS IT but warned that "the devil is in the detail".

Laurence Harrison, healthcare programme manager at Intellect, highlighted the importance of defining the relationship between consortia of suppliers and the health service. "There are areas that our members are keen to see more detail on, such as the make-up of prime service provider consortia," he said. "The devil is in the detail."

An official submission by Intellect to the NHS Information Authority and the Department of Health Information Policy Unit warned that a better definition of the make-up and operation of the consortia is required to ensure the effectiveness of key suppliers in building new NHS IT systems.

Suppliers are set to play a key role in the Government's plan to upgrade the health service's technology infrastructure, which promises to be the largest IT project ever undertaken in this country.

Experts have already warned that the Government must work closely with suppliers on the issue of procurement, or risk jeopardising the overall NHS IT strategy.

One NHS IT manager said, "The Government has to decide how national contracts will be enforced locally and there is also some doubt about the capacity of the NHS and the suppliers to deliver. The health service's history of implementing large, high-risk systems quickly is not good."

Launched earlier this year, the Delivering 21st Century IT Support for the NHS report outlined the Government's long-term agenda for health service IT. Key to this is the establishment of "development partnerships" with consortia of suppliers, an initiative designed to produce a portfolio of IT systems for use at both regional and local level.

IT suppliers will be closely involved in major projects such as the introduction of electronic patient records in all primary care trusts and hospitals by December 2005. The strategy will be overseen by Richard Granger, the new director general of NHS IT.

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