The government has reaffirmed its faith in the "potential" of the Cerner Millennium and the Lorenzo patient administration systems to work effectively within the NHS's £12.7bn National Programme for IT [NPfIT].
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It has also pledged to ensure that NHS staff and clinicians, who have generally been kept in the dark, are kept informed on the timing and content of forthcoming releases of Cerner and Lorenzo.
But it conceded that care should be taken to deploy systems only if they are fit for purpose. Several hospitals have run up millions of pounds in extra costs, and have had the care and treatment of their patients disrupted, after troubled NPfIT go-lives.
The government expressed its confidence in the potential of Cerner and Lorenzo in "Treasury Minutes", which are formal government responses to committee reports, in this case a report of the Public Accounts Committee on the NPfIT in January 2009.
The government accepted most of the committee's recommendations on the NPfIT. This contrasts with 2006 when the government rejected most of the committee's report on the NPfIT.
In its latest response the government said, "The Department [of Health] remains confident in the potential of both Cerner's Millennium and iSoft's Lorenzo to work effectively once deployment and testing have been completed."
It added that trusts will not be expected to take the systems until they work effectively. "Lorenzo will be tested fully in the early adopter sites before national implementation begins."
Cerner is being deployed by BT as the local service provider for London. BT is also to support Cerner sites in the south of England. CSC is the local service provider for NHS sites in the rest of England, where Lorenzo is due to be installed.
The government was vague and non-committal on the committee's recommendation that unless the position on care records system deployments improved appreciably within six months the department should assess the financial case for allowing trusts to request central funding for alternative systems.
The government said, "Although the government does not agree the six-month timetable, it does agree that the position on the deployment of the care records service needs to improve appreciably over the coming months The department proposes to provide the committee with a note on [progress on the deployment of the care records service by the end of 2009".
The government promised that a new survey of NHS staff into their views on the NPfIT will be resumed - no survey was carried out in 2008. It will also consider publishing an annual report of "Serious Untoward Incidents" which involve the NPfIT, but has not promised to do so.
The Government conceded that "previous approaches" to establish the local costs of the NPfIT had proved unsuccessful". Officials will consult on how best to capture these figures.