What contribution to NHS IT do Local Service Providers make?

Tom Brooks, a well-informed and long-standing member of the Parliamentary IT Committee, who for several years has helped members of parliament with their scrutiny of NHS IT development, has written an opinion piece on what contribution local service providers make to NHS IT – here.

He is in part responding to a paper written for the board of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust – the UK’s largest NHS trust – on the National Programme for IT [NPfIT] in the NHS. The formerly confidential Leeds board paper was published exclusively on this blog.

Local Service Providers are companies that have won £6.2bn worth of contracts under the NHS’s National Programme for IT [NPfIT]. BT is the local service provider for London, Fujitsu for Southern England up to and including the Oxford area, CSC for everywhere else in England. US-based services supplier Accenture had been a Local Service Provider but it withdrew and transferred staff and most of its NHS work to CSC.

Under the NPfIT contracts, the local service providers will gradually take over from NHS trusts responsibility for IT in the NHS. The idea is that trusts will buy their IT from the local service providers rather than on the open market.

In this way, the Department of Health, by bulk buying and negotiating the prices with the local providers, can get the lowest possible prices. But the reality may be different. The Office of Government Commerce has negotiated prices centrally for government generally but executives in some large departments get better prices buying on the open market.

Would NHS trusts be better off doing the same, having the freedom to buy from whomever they choose? Tom Brooks cites the example of picture archiving and communication systems (PACS) which replace x-ray firm with screen-based digital images. There is little evidence to show that all PACS systems bought centrally are cheaper than those the trust could buy directly – and in some cases the central systems may be more expensive.

Tom Brooks’ article is here