Government's Gateway guidelines delay NHS IT contract

Chris Mugan

The NHS is five months late in awarding an IT contract due to guidelines designed to prevent project failure.

A source familiar with the NHS Payroll and Human Resources Project claims a departmental decision to adhere to the Gateway Process - a project review methodology endorsed by the Government in January - is responsible for the delay.

The Department of Health (DoH) was unable to confirm or deny the claims when they were put to it last week. However, it appears that the choice of a preferred supplier for the Payroll and Human Resources Project, which was due to take place by Christmas last year and which had been postponed to February has now been put back to May.

In January, the Government made the Gateway project review methodology mandatory for all high-risk public sector IT contracts with the exception of those put out by the Ministries of Defence and Health. However, the DoH made a voluntary decision to adhere to the guidelines, a source claims.

Two consortia are now in contention for the NHS contract. McKesson HBOC leads one group that includes Oracle, IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Another is led by Sema Group and includes SAP and KPMG.

The Gateway review methodology requires all high-risk projects to receive approval at five separate stages from conception of the business case to post-implementation review. It was introduced following a Cabinet Office review of high-profile public sector IT disasters.

The NHS has decided to implement a combined system for HR and payroll to make its process more efficient. On Friday, the NAO criticised Sema for its role in the government's system for assessing rights to disability benefits. The NAO said 40% of decisions to withdraw incapacity benefit where overturned on appeal.

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