NHS IT chief warns contractors could seek compensation

NHS IT chief warns contractors could seek compensation

Granger claims his departure could force contract renegotiations

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Departing NHS IT chief Richard Granger has warned that key suppliers to the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) might seek contract changes or compensation when he leaves.

Granger has announced that he will quit his post as director general of NHS Connecting for Health, which runs NPfIT, by the end of the year. His departure four years into NPfIT will come before key systems – such as the long-delayed Lorenzo care records system at the heart of the programme – have been delivered.

Analysts credited the combative IT chief with introducing new types of contractual arrangement into the NHS’s dealings with IT suppliers. Ovum analyst John O’Brien noted that Granger came to the NHS after negotiating the contract for London’s congestion charging scheme.

“This is largely seen as a success, and Granger brought in some of the contractual innovations delivered here into the NPfIT, such as the payment to suppliers only on successful delivery,” he said.

But Granger claimed there was a “significant” risk that lead NPfIT suppliers CSC, Fujitsu and BT could seek compensation when he leaves because this would amount to a variation on their contracts, the Financial Times newspaper reported.

Relations with suppliers have been tricky, with the “payment on delivery” system provoking arguments between suppliers and the NHS over who was responsible for delays in delivery.

There has also been concern about lack of capacity in the overall IT market. Last July Granger told the Commons public accounts committee: “There is a shortage of capacity in the IT industry and we have had to bring in a lot of resources, from India and the US in particular, and some things have unfortunately gone wrong as a consequence of that.”

September saw a major shake-up of the NPfIT contracts when Accenture pulled out as lead contractor to two out of five NPfIT regions, transferring its work to CSC, which now leads in three regions.

O’Brien said Granger would leave behind him an IT programme “in the midst of major change” as it moved towards a more localised approach, where control and accountability is increasingly moving in to the hands of the NHS trusts themselves. “This means that clinicians and healthcare professionals will have more of a say over their choice of IT systems and services,” he said.

MPs from the powerful Commons public accounts committee warned in April that NPfIT was unlikely to deliver significant benefits for patients at the end of its 10-year contract, without a fundamental change in the rate of progress.

“The Department [of Health] is unlikely to complete the Programme anywhere near its original schedule.” Four years after NPfIT’s start, there was still uncertainty “about the costs of the Programme for the local NHS and the value of the benefits it should achieve”, they added.

The committee warned that if the project failed, “it could set back IT developments in the NHS for years, and divert money and staff time from front line patient services”.

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