NHS Trusts in the south of England are to have a choice of suppliers following the termination of Fujitsu's contract last year, the Department of Health's CIO confirmed today.
Services supplier Fujitsu was to have installed the Cerner Millennium Care Records Service to trusts in the south, but its contract was terminated last year.
Christine Connelly hopes that choice will allow trusts in southern England to replace creaking patient administration systems without continuing to wait for systems from the two remaining local service providers BT and CSC.
With Fujitsu's departure, NHS Connecting for Health has asked trusts in the south to commit to the Cerner system from BT or the Lorenzo product from CSC, but trusts have shown only limited enthusiasm.
Now NHS trusts which were to have been served by Fujitsu will be able to buy under an "Additional Supply Capability and Capacity" [ASCC] framework, if they have not already committed to buying the Cerner system from BT.
NHS Connecting for Health told Computer Weekly today that trusts will have their purchases under ASCC funded centrally. "If trusts in the south choose systems through the approved ASCC suppliers then they will have them centrally funded under the NPfIT," said a CfH spokesman.
Hospital boards that buy the Cerner system from BT or Lorenzo from CSC are already funded centrally.
The NPfIT minister Ben Bradshaw and NHS Connecting for Health have always said that the ASCC framework was a contingency only. Now it is to become a key component of the NPfIT.
Connelly defended the NPfIT. She said that, having reviewed the progress and strategy for the NPfIT, it was clear that the aims of providing accessible and timely information to support patient care should be retained.
This also applies to the procurement model which has ensured protection for the taxpayer by only paying suppliers on successful delivery of working systems.
She said that good progress has been made in many areas including digitised imaging replacing X-rays, online patient referrals, electronic transfers of records when patients change GPs and a broadband network linking acute hospitals, GP surgeries and community services.
But, as had been pointed out by the Public Accounts Committee, progress in implementing electronic information systems in the acute sector has proved more challenging.
Greater pace needs to be injected into these implementations, she said.
"We will be working closely with the NHS and our current suppliers to improve the pace of delivery. If we don't see significant progress by the end of November 2009, then we will move to a new plan for delivering informatics to healthcare," she said.
She added: "This Review has shown me just how committed NHS Trusts are to achieving the aims of the NPfITWe now want to open up the healthcare IT market to new suppliers and new technological developments, to inject more pace into this programme.
Connelly said that a Department of Health toolkit will allow new products to be developed locally, accredited centrally and linked to existing deployments of information systems such as Cerner and Lorenzo.
The toolkit may be complete by March 2010.