The Guardian has an article that NHS executives may not replace Fujitsu as the local service provider in the south of England for the National Programme for IT [NPfIT].
Indeed there have been high-level meetings in recent days at which the idea of not replacing Fujitsu has been floated. Some NHS staff want ministers and Connecting for Health, which is part of the Department of Health, to give them the freedom to buy from a range of accredited ASCC suppliers rather though a local service provider as a middle-man.
For ministers, the issue appears to be mainly one of presentation: how it is possible not to replace Fujitsu while being seen to keep the original shape of the NPfIT intact.
Some see part of the political credibility of the NPfIT as pivoting on central contracts awarded to local service providers whose work is overseen by a central bureaucracy, NHS Connecting for Health, which employs around 1,100 people.
It’s sometimes said that bureaucracies are perpetuated by the amount of spending they control – and they will not easily give up budgets or control. The central costs of the NPfIT – excluding the contracts with local service providers – are expected to be about £1.6bn. The permanent loss of a local service provider in the south of England could be viewed by some in Whitehall as a loss of control.
On the other hand giving a choice of suppliers to trusts in the south could be seen as the NPfIT moving with the times – taking what works, such as the N3 broadband and the spine – and allowing go-lives of non-LSP systems which make use of the national programme’s infrastructure. Information could be sent from a range of accredited systems to the spine and the summary care record if ever it works.
As a blog reader points out today [30 May 2008]: “The Information Authority [now defunct]delivered an excellent core eGIF specification, which, with a secure spine depository, would have allowed best of breed products, both commercial and in-house developed, to transact in a far more secure fashion at systems level and kept the markets open and competitive for the end users, the Trusts.”
[The e-GIF defines the technical policies and specifications governing information flows across government and the public sector.]
Some of the high-level talks are around BT, the local service provider for London, taking over in the south of England only those trusts that need continued LSP support for their installations of the Cerner Millennium-based Care Records Service – although existing and potential investors of BT shares are speculating on investor websites about the possibility of the BT’s taking over all of Fujitsu’s contract.
Meanwhile we’re told that the uncertainties in the south over the loss of Fujitsu are causing deep unease. It would help a little if NHS Connecting for Health gave immediate advice to trusts in the south, that haven’t finalised arrangements already, about how they should meet the government’s deadline in December 2008 of ensuring that patients start treatment within 18 weeks of referral from a GP.
Secondary systems of choice are what’s needed. If another monopolistic local service provider takes over the whole of Fujitsu’s contract it’ll be a decision driven largely by politics and presentation, which would be a pity. We’ve always said that politics and large IT projects are a toxic mix.