Skills shortage? - Fujitsu NPfIT staff could help

Fujitsu is preparing to make redundant about 500 people with specialist IT and general project skills after it warned in June of potential redundancies of nearly 700 people.

The job losses are because Fujitsu is quitting as local service provider for the south of England under the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT].

Those expected to lose their jobs are in areas of software and solution development, solution delivery, business consulting, service delivery management and project management. There are also about 40 doctors and nurses and others with clinical expertise.

Some of the staff put on 90 days notice of possible redundancy on 20 June have been redeployed within Fujitsu. The others have hoped that one or both of the other two NPfIT local service providers CSC or BT would take over Fujitsu’s contract to supply the Care Records Service to dozens of trusts in the south.

BT is expected to take over eight Fujitsu sites that have gone live with the Cerner “Millennium” Care Records Service. But senior executives working for the NPfIT have indicated that no decisions are likely before September on what most NHS trusts will buy and from whom.

The uncertainty means that Fujitsu is expected to issue firm redundancy notices to up to 500 staff by the end of August. The formal 90-day consultation period of potential redundancy expires on 18 September 2008.

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NPfIT uncertainties from a trust’s perspective

Worthing and Southlands Hospitals NHS Trust had commissioned help from an external consultancy in drawing up an IM&T strategy this Spring. But its board has now been told  “A number of factors have since impacted on this plan, resulting in slippage with the timetable.” The “factors” include the termination of Fujitsu’s contract.

The trust’s board was told that nothing has been decided yet on what happens after Fujitsu’s withdrawal. A report to the board this month said:

“… the scope and scale of transition has not yet been agreed, resulting in much uncertainty, particularly for Worthing and Southlands Hospital and West Sussex Primary Care Trust who are already live on the product [Cerner Millennium].

“The Strategic Health Authority is leading the consultation across the South East Coast to identify the options and inform the future direction of travel for delivering the National Programme across the three constituent counties.

“To support this exercise, and ensure that the Trust and its partner organisations across Sussex are not placed at unnecessary risk, it has been agreed that the Sussex HIS will coordinate an appraisal to assist in identifying the recommended long term option(s) for Sussex.”

Interim systemsa decision by end of August?

Like many trusts Worthing and Southlands is considering interim systems.

“Consideration is being given to interim solutions until the nature and delivery timescales of the CRS [Care Records Service] programme are understood.

“Although timescales are not definitive, the Strategic Health Authority is working towards identifying an agreed direction of travel for the longer term by the end of August.”

 

Comment: It’s a pity that a cohesive set of project skills at Fujitsu will be lost. Any takers? Separately, the paper to the board of Worthing and Southlands NHS trust, and similar papers to other trusts, show that NHS boards are not willing to place their IT future helplessly in the hands of officials running the NPfIT. The national programme is being sidelined: trusts have many priorities and the NPfIT – even if it were running to plan – is only one component. As it’s not running to plan it’s not even a central component in some trust plans. There will still be some, though, who continue to rely on the NPfIT. As Mark Twain said:”Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Worthing refers to “interim systems” which means it is, understandably, adopting the Whitehall euphemism. Interim systems is NPfIT and ministerial spin. Would buyers of new cars call them “interim vehicles” because they’ll be replaced eventually?

Links:

Fujitsu warns of 700 NPfIT job cuts – IT Projects blog June 2008

Fujitsu cuts 16,400 jobs including 900 at ICL – BBC article from 2001

Fujitsu communications workers go on strike – Birmingham June 2008

Fujitsu workers take their fight to Parliament – Manchester, 2007   

Fujitsu ends contract on NHS IT project – Healthcare IT News 

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