Major shake-up at Connecting for Health – but not for the NPfIT

NHS Connecting for Health, which manages supplier contracts on the £12.7bn National Programme for IT, is replacing contractors with permanent staff to cut its costs. The organisation is understood to employ more than 900 people.

NHS Connecting for Health, which manages supplier contracts on the £12.7bn National Programme for IT, is replacing contractors with permanent staff to cut its costs. The organisation is understood to employ more than 900 people.

Computer Weekly understands that there will be no large-scale cut in staff numbers at Connecting for Health. But market researcher Ovum reports that CfH will become "little more than a delivery arm, with the strategic power resting with the Department of Health".

Tola Sargeant at Ovum adds that since 2003/4 when the NPfIT's contracts with local service providers began, the Department of Health has brought in policies which needed new IT support - but CFH has found itself struggling to implement IT changes within contracts and budgets that did not foresee them.

Policy changes which have needed new IT support include a new General Medical Services contract for GPs, giving people a choice of hospitals, and a government promise that patients will not wait more than 18 weeks between a GP referring them to hospital and the start of treatment.

Sargeant said that although CFH itself will lose power in a restructuring, it could lead to better alignment between NHS policy and IT. "Having some NHS CFH people in senior roles within the DoH will put IT experts in a stronger position to influence policy that affects the [NPfIT] programme," she said.

For NHS trusts uncertainties continue. One of the two remaining local service providers to the NPIT, CSC, has been in talks for about a year to renegotiate parts of its contract. And NHS trusts are unsure when a fit-for-purpose version of the Lorenzo patient administration system will be delivered.

The other NPfIT local service provider, BT, is waiting for a government signature on its prices and proposals to take over eight NHS sites in the south of England which have been supplied by the outgoing provider Fujitsu.

Trust boards in the south, meanwhile, are unsure whether to commit to buying patient administration systems from the NPfIT suppliers CSC or BT - which CfH wants them to do - or buy "interim" systems elsewhere.

Computer Weekly understands that trusts will soon be given greater freedom to buy systems of their choice, within limits.

Ovum comment on the NPfIT >>

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