BT, the main IT supplier to London under the £12.7bn NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT], is “stretched to deliver” according to the capital’s strategic health authority.
BT is the capital’s local service provider under a £996m 10-year contract it won in 2004. It is to supply systems to up to 43 hospitals in the London area which serve more than seven million people. At its main installations so far there have been a range of problems – at Barts and The London NHS Trust, Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust, Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust and Queen Mary’s Sidcup.
NHS London says that since BT is already stretched to deliver it “would be unhappy if BT tried to take the commercial advantage following the cancellation by Fujitsu of their contract”.
But BT is negotiating with health officials to take over the support of eight trusts in the south of England where Fujitsu was the main supplier. It could win further business at NHS trusts where Fujitsu was due to be the supplier.
Fujitsu is leaving the national programme as the local service provider for the south of England. This leaves a gap for BT and CSC as the two remaining NPfIT local service providers.
BT is most obvious contender to take over from Fujitsu because both have been supplying the “Cerner” Millennium software. CSC is expected to offer a different product to trusts in its area – Lorenzo from iSoft, now IBA Health, or the “Alert” system from a Portuguese company.
The claim that BT is stretched to deliver was made in a paper to the board of one of its customers – the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust which, in June, became the first NHS site in England to go live with release 1 of the Cerner Millennium Care Records Service. The “LC1” version of Millennium has been tailored for use in London.
BT denies the claim. Its spokeswoman said: “The BT answer to “are we stretched” is: No. We’re confident we have the right resources in place to deliver our commitments in London. If we acquire additional responsibilities in the South we will make sure that these are properly underpinned and fully resourced while continuing to develop, deploy and manage all of our systems in London to the required standard.”
In 2004, after the Department of Health awarded NPfIT deals to BT, the company’s chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, said at a conference at The Barbican that the contracts awarded to BT under the NPfIT were, in aggregate, the “biggest the company has won in its history”.
Bland conceded that BT was concerned by the complexity and enormity of the national programme. “No other country has attempted what collectively we are about to attempt,” he said. “It is immensely exciting to us, and we are somewhat frightened by the complexity and enormity of it – but it is exciting and a real challenge to get it to work.”
He described the view of BT’s board on winning the NPfIT contracts.. “We felt slightly like a dog chasing a car – what do we do if we catch it? Well, we caught it.”
In 2006, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said in a board paper that local service providers were not keeping up with the scale and complexity of the national programme:
“Connecting for Health has concentrated the IT supplier market by creating several large contractor conglomerates; smaller, often more innovative companies have struggled to survive. LSPs and their sub-contractors are not keeping up with the scale and complexity of the national programme.
BT Health – its LSP website website
BT – NPfIT good news
London Programme for IT – its website
Suppliers not keeping up with scale and complexity of the programme – leeds trust FOI paper.