The NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) has taken a different direction with NHS trusts being given a choice of a range of systems from various suppliers - which they were able to do before the advent of the NPfIT in 2002.
An announcement was made today of the names of suppliers who have signed framework deals, the so-called Additional Supply Capability and Capacity (ASCC).
The suppliers will supply systems to national standards and may end up competing with the three local service providers, CSC, Fujitsu and BT, who were given £6.2bn worth of contracts to supply NHS trusts in 2003 and 2004.
After the NPfIT was announced in 2002, NHS trusts were stopped from exercising choice over their IT systems. Procurements by coalitions of trusts that formed to buy systems regionally were also stopped. Instead, the Department of Health signed contracts with a small group of suppliers with the aim of ruthlessly standardising on two main software suppliers, iSoft and IDX (replaced by Cerner) for the NHS in England. But some trusts are going their own way and it has been found that iSoft and Cerner do not offer all that is needed.
Now the ASCC gives NHS trusts a choice again - but if they choose a supplier from the framework list they may have to pay for the systems from their own budgets without any special central funding. If they buy from a local service provider their purchase will be subsidised by central funds.
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