Minister hails Fujitsu’s leaving NPfIT as sign of strength

The termination of Fujitsu's...

The termination of Fujitsu's contract on the £12.7bn NHS IT scheme is a sign of the programme's strength, says a government minister.

But assurances to Parliament contrast with new uncertainties at NHS trusts.

The comments of the minister, Baroness Thornton, show that the departure of Fujitsu as a major supplier to the National Programme for IT [NPFiT] has left unchanged the government's official line that the scheme is a success - although a report of the National Audit Office in May found that the core NPfIT software, a Care Records Service, will finish rolling out at least four years later than first planned.

Baroness Thornton made her comments during a short debate on the NPfIT in the House of Lords. The debate was initiated by a Conservative peer, Baroness Sharples. She pointed out that two suppliers, Accenture and Fujitsu, have quit the national programme.

Baroness Thornton replied, "The fact that Fujitsu's contract was terminated is in fact a sign of the programme's strength. The programme is still on course and our contractors are not paid until they have delivered. In that sense, no money has been lost."

But her comments about Fujitsu's departure took no account of the deepening uncertainties facing the boards of NHS trusts in the south of England, where the supplier was contracted in 2004 to be local service provider.

Since Fujitsu's departure was announced at least one NHS trust has, after repeated postponements, cancelled its go-live of the Cerner "Millennium" system. A spokesman for Bath's Royal United Hospital said the trust "did not did not have sufficient confidence in the level of support that it would receive from the suppliers, at and beyond the go-live period, to proceed with the implementation of Millennium".

But Baroness Thornton made no mention of the programme difficulties. She said: "We are very confident that, over time, this will roll out as a very successful programme we are confident that this is moving forward at the right speed".

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