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NHS England issues integrated cloud ERP procurement advice call

NHS England is calling on software suppliers for advice concerning the feasibility of moving and integrating its ERP systems in cloud infrastructure

NHS England has issued a call to software suppliers for advice concerning the integration of its human resources (HR) and finance applications in a cloud environment.

This is what the organisation calls a prior information notice (PIN) to seek market advice, and is explicitly “not linked to a contracting opportunity”.

The so-called “discovery project” will build on two other NHS programmes – the Electronic Staff Record (ESR) and Integrated Single Finance Environment (ISFE) programmes.

The project’s goal is to “identify the likely benefits and drawbacks of adopting an integrated ERP versus separate ESR and finance systems. This project will also need to consider required business process change to deliver the identified benefits.”

The scale and scope of any system, or systems, that eventually issue from the advice garnered by the discovery project is immense.

The prior information notice indicates that 450 separate organisations would come within the purview of the eventual system. These include all constituents of the English NHS – all arm’s-length bodies, trusts, foundations trusts, integrated care systems, and more than 1.7 million employees.

The potential functionalities required lie across HR and finance, including recruitment, HR, payroll, learning, talent management, finance, procurement, planning and budgeting.

The organisation plans to hold what it calls an “engagement session” with software suppliers on 19 October. Questions should be submitted by noon on 15 October, and a recommendation and draft outline business case will be made public by January 2021.

Cloud computing has featured in NHS technology strategies in recent years with respect to infrastructure for certain patient services and patient data.

In January 2020, NHS Digital announced it had completed the migration of two major services to the public cloud. These were the NHS e-Referral Service (e-RS) and the NHS 111 Directory of Services (DoS). 

And in January 2018, the organisation’s technology organisation declared that public cloud services were a safe location for health and social care providers to store confidential patient information.

But this still embryonic project opens up the field of the business applications for NHS England’s own staff – one of the largest employers on the planet, not far behind US Department of Defense and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

NHS Shared Business Services (SBS) works with more than a third of NHS trusts and all of the NHS commissioning organisations, providing financial and accounting, procurement and employee services operations. In 2017, it was noted in Computer Weekly that the SBS’s IT portfolio has at its heart is an Oracle E-Business Suite R12 ERP platform – one of the largest Oracle ERP deployments in Europe, with its origins in the on-premise world.

Cloud ERP, whether from Oracle, SAP, or any of the other suppliers active in ERP,  is on the march across the private sector, and cloud adoption, more generally, has been sped up by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

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