Early adopter trust left in the lurch after key NHS supplier is dropped

A major West Country hospital has been left to cope with a legacy patient administration system following Fujitsu Services' decision to drop a key subcontractor from the Connecting for Health programme.

A major West Country hospital has been left to cope with a legacy patient administration system following Fujitsu Services' decision to drop a key subcontractor from the Connecting for Health programme.

Doctors leaders believe other NHS organisations could be facing similar problems over delayed systems under the NHS IT modernisation programme.

Fujitsu, the southern cluster Connecting for Health local service provider, dropped its patient administration system supplier IDX earlier this month. The move has left the Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust, which was to be an early adopter of new systems, without a date for replacement of its ageing kit.

The trust's business case to replace its TDS patient administration system said, "Ideally these applications would have already been replaced, but due to the advent of the NPfIT [national programme for IT, the original name for Connecting for Health] this process has been delayed."

The trust put itself forward to become an early implementation site for the IDX product, with a planned go-live date of November this year. Now neither Fujitsu or Connecting for Health can tell the trust when a replacement might be ready.

Meanwhile, IT staff and doctors at the trust must support and use a "clinically unpopular system with limited functionality", said the trust's business case.

Connecting for Health said it would not compensate trusts for the cost of running old systems while they are waiting for national systems to be delivered.

John Powell, chairman of the British Medical Association's Health Information Management Committee, said, "The planning blight issue is of increasing concern, not just in Bath, but in hospitals with creaking IT systems that have put off replacing them because of the promises of the national programme. Every delay exacerbates that position."

He welcomed Fujitsu's cancellation of its contract with IDX in anticipation of potential problems, but said, "It creates further delay. How long is it going to take other people to get where IDX got to?"

Powell said the delay could undermine doctors' confidence in NHS IT, but added that it would not derail the whole process.

Connecting for Health, the hospital and Fujitsu Services said they were unable to comment until negotiations with IDX replacement Cerner are complete.

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