MP questions NHS CIO on BT, CSC, Lorenzo and Cerner

MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, who has followed the NPfIT more closely than any other MP, yesterday sent a list of questions to Christine Connelly, the Department of Health’s CIO of health.

His letter has been copied to the chief executive of the NHS, David Nicholson, and to the Comptroller and Auditor General at the National Audit Office, Amyas Morse.

Bacon’s questions follow disclosures that NHS Connecting for Health is negotiating with CSC and BT to halve the number of local service provider deployments and greatly reduce the functionality of Lorenzo and Cerner systems.

The government wants to cut hundreds of millions of pounds from the costs of the NPfIT – but, in essence, it is proposing to cut CSC and BT’s financial commitments by about £2 for every pound they reduce the total value of the contracts.

This Bacon’s letter:

Dear Ms Connelly

As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I have been following theprogress of the National Programme for IT in the NHS for many years.   Iremained very concerned about the acute hospital care record systemswhich are at the heart of the National Programme.

I understand that you are in the process of negotiating new contractresets with both BT and CSC and that the plan is to reduce substantiallyboth the number of deployments and the functional scope in order tosecure a reduction of payments of just £600 million on over £5 billionof contracts. 

For example, I understand that two of the four Lorenzo releases are tobe discarded and that a substantial number of London trusts arewithdrawing from the programme.  I would be most grateful if you couldhelp me by answering the questions below:

1.  How can the programme represent value for money when such dramaticreductions in scope and scale are apparently being considered?

I also understand from e-Health Insider that BT are being paid anadditional £546m for installing four new Cerner systems, maintainingseven Cerner systems already installed and deploying some RiO mentalhealth systems. This seems like an extraordinarily large amount of moneyfor such a small amount of activity.

2.  How this has been calculated as being value for money when theeleven acute trusts could have purchased brand new systems for afraction of the price?

Over the last seven years, the Lorenzo PAS has missed deadline afterdeadline. We were expecting it in 2004-05; and then in 2008 Mr Nicholsontold us that it was ready to deploy; and I understand that it is aboutto miss the March 2010 drop dead date which you set last year.  I amkeen to understand:

3.  How much is the NHS spending in supporting Lorenzo?

4.  How many Lorenzo acute PAS systems are being targeted for the next12 months?

5.  At what point will you say “enough is enough” if CSC fail to deploythe Lorenzo PAS successfully?

6.  How are you ensuring that the Morecambe Bay system is ready and thatTrusts further down the line will not be allowed to go live until thedeployment is proven at Morecambe Bay?

Finally, although I appreciate the huge political pressure to deploysystems to demonstrate progress, I am also concerned about deployingLorenzo before it is ready to use.  I would hate to see another problemlike Barts and the London, the Royal Free or Milton Keynes.

I think you would agree that the progress of Acute Care Records systemswithin the National Programme has been very disappointing.  I amextremely concerned that the latest contract resets will take us out ofthe frying pan into the fire.

I am copying this email to the chief executive of the NHS, DavidNicholson, and to the Comptroller and Auditor General at the NationalAudit Office, Amyas Morse.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Richard Bacon

MP for South Norfolk

Member of the Public Accounts Committee


Bacon says: prove value of NPfIT deals – E-Health Insider

Is the NPfIT close to imploding? – IT Projects Blog

Minister to sew up NPfIT deals before election? – IT Projects Blog

Fixing NHS IT – Conservativehome

iSoft says NPfIT commitments are on track – Edwards Healthcare