Conservative MP Richard Bacon has sent a letter to the National Audit Office and the Department of Health’s director general for informatics, Christine Connelly, raising serious concerns about the value of a new CSC contract.
Bacon is a member of the Public Accounts Committee who has followed the National Programme for IT in the NHS closely since it started in 2002.
In his latest letter, he warns Connelly that some trusts in the North, Midlands and East of England that have told the DH they make take iSoft's Lorenzo electronic patient record system are not committed to it.
He says some trusts will not be able to take Lorenzo from local service provider CSC for operational reasons, while others will want to make alternative arrangements to take other systems.
A Memorandum of Understanding with CSC could be signed as early as this week that will see 187 NHS trusts signed up to take the system; just 35 fewer than the original £3 billion contract specified.
Bacon's letter follows an exclusive story by E-Health Insider two weeks ago. This indicated that while trusts were telling NHS Connecting for Health they might take Lorenzo in the future, they were actively investing in other systems and had little commitment to it.
In March, trusts across the NME were sent correspondence telling them that the functionality of Lorenzo would be scaled back and asking them whether they would like to opt out of taking the system.
EHI sent Freedom of Information requests to all six strategic health authorities across the NME, asking how many of their trusts had confirmed their intent to deploy either iSoft’s Lorenzo or TPP’s SystmOne from CSC.
Although the majority refused to respond, NHS North West said that 56 out of 60 responses trusts had confirmed intent. However, to EHI’s knowledge at least 11 are actively pursuing EPR strategies that mean they will never take Lorenzo.
In relation to this, Bacon’s letter asks: “If you sign the Memorandum of Understanding with CSC and then it turns out that – as a result of the recent reduction in scope for Lorenzo and the well-documented difficulties in deploying it smoothly at larger trusts – hospital trusts refuse to take Lorenzo because it is not adequate for their needs, what is the financial exposure of the NHS and the Secretary of State?”
Bacon added: “There is a large disconnect between the optimistic assessment of the Department of Health as to how many trusts will actually want Lorenzo and the reality.”
The functionality that is likely to be delivered by Lorenzo was first scaled back last year, when the Treasury under Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling asked for £600m to be trimmed from the national programme.
Health minister Simon Burns indicated that a further £700m would be trimmed from the programme when he announced the outcome of a review of it earlier this year.
The review said the programme would end in its current form, with many of its projects becoming services, more local procurement and more modular deployment of systems. However, it also said the existing LSP contracts would be "honoured."
Earlier this year, Christine Connelly told EHI that trust’s who don’t take Lorenzo won’t get financially penalised. However she said: “If we do not get enough trusts in totality to meet the contract then the NHS as a whole will be.”
Last week the NAO confirmed it will launch an investigation into the value of NPfIT, focusing specifically on the £546m contract that was awarded to BT last year. The review follows a similar request for an inquiry into the contract's value for money that was made by Bacon in September.
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