Trade union Unite has called on the government to act quickly to save up to 700 jobs at risk at Fujitsu following the termination of the firm's contract to supply IT to health trusts in Southern England.
Fujitsu announced that the jobs were at risk last week after Connecting for Health terminated Fujitsu's £1.1bn contract under the NHS £12.7bn National Programme for IT.
Peter Skyte, national officer at Unite, said a prolonged period of negotiations could lead to Fujitsu making redundancies. Workers threatened with redundancy could look for new jobs, leaving the NHS short of IT professionals with the skills it needs for the National Programme for IT, he warned.
"We want the government to make quick decision about the replacement for Fujitsu. The people that have been working for Fujitsu should be redeployed within Fujitsu or transferred to the replacement supplier," he said. "We want to ensure that the workers are retained and that the work done already was not in vain."
Fujitsu works alongside trusts in the South to help them implement the NPfIT technologies. These include an IT help desk system, a picture archiving system for X-rays and the care records system supplied by Cerner.
Connecting for health, which runs the NHS NPfIT, said it expects the Fujitsu staff to be retained by the replacement supplier.
"We have indicated to Fujitsu that where any service transfers to another supplier, we expect Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (TUPE) to apply and staff associated with that work would transfer to that other supplier.
"Furthermore we have already agreed to bring together Fujitsu and other suppliers working on delivery of the National Programme for IT to assist in reducing the impact of the termination on skilled IT staff," it said.
Phil Morris, European managing director at sourcing consultancy Equaterra, said the most important health IT roles were in governance. Local trusts have to continue with projects regardless of developments emanating from the centre, he said.
One IT director at a Southern Trust said NHS IT staff had so far covered for the work done by Fujitsu staff. He said his trust made sure that it was not too reliant on Fujitsu skills.
"We kept it fifty-fifty and because the plans are already in place we are carrying on until a replacement is found," he added.
Skyte said he wished for a similar outcome with Fujitsu.