NHS Trusts are tendering for IT systems on a scale not known in recent years - outside of the NPfIT, I’m told. It appears that trusts wish to use the freedom given by the Department of Health to buy what they want.
In the past trusts have faced pressure from strategic health authorities and the Department of Health to buy their patient administration systems from NPfIT local service providers BT or CSC. Now trusts can use EC tendering to investigate the market thoroughly and buy directly from suppliers of choice.
Trusts that buy Lorenzo systems from CSC and Cerner from BT can receive the products “free” because the products are funded centrally by the Department of Health.
But critics of NPfIT products say that the costs of maintenance - which have to be met by trusts - make the nationally-selected systems more expensive than those outside of the national programme, even when the Department of Health subsidises the maintenance costs of NPfIT systems.
The surge in tendering for hospital systems includes some sites that have already installed NPfIT systems, including Cerner’s Millennium. This is because local service provider contracts are due to expire in 2013/14 and it can take two years to tender and implement patient administration systems. So tendering plans for end-of-NPfIT contracts are already being drawn up.
The Government’s announcement today that the NPfIT is being dismantled will give ammunition to trust CIOs that wish to convince their boards that the national programme is dead or dying (though in fact the scheme is continuing).