The government will sign a new contract with Fujitsu Services next year to take account of changes to the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the south of England.
New arrangements under discussion with Fujitsu – the lead NPfIT contractor for NPfIT’s south region – include giving the NHS a greater choice in the systems provided as part of the electronic care record service, speeding up the lifecycle for key systems from two years to six months and changing deployment priorities.
Lester Young, Fujitsu’s NHS account director, said the company would even be open to changing the original output based specifications for NPfIT set out in 2003, which split delivery into four phases.
Young noted that “the world’s changed quite a bit since then... some of that is the NHS adapting to political imperatives, for example the 18-week wait [target for operations] wasn’t even a twinkle four years ago.”
Talks over the NPfIT contract in the south mark a key development in the move towards NHS organisations taking “local ownership” of the programme and a shift of power away from Connecting for Health, which has run NPfIT on a centralised basis.
Changes to the contract – which is ultimately held by the health secretary on behalf of the government – would “deal with the differences” between what strategic health authorities in the southern region want and the requirements set out nationally by Connecting for Health, Young said.
“We’ve had some challenges working out as [local ownership] has been transitioned, how much of the contract we should be held to and how much could change under the new regime.”
A key area of discussion is Fujitsu’s provision of Cerner’s Millennium patient administration system (PAS) as the basis of the care records system, with some NHS users seeking alternatives. The strongest opposition to the Millennium system came from 79 users at Milton Keynes General Hospital, who wrote to managers earlier this year saying the software was “not fit for purpose”.
Young said: “Our solution was always centred on the Millennium product, but we’re not ideologically bound to it. We’re not bound to Cerner if the NHS decides some functionality is better met with a different solution.”
At present, there are contractual commitments “relating to some Cerner functions”, and Young said Fujitsu was “not delivering an alternative PAS”, but modules for specialist areas, such as mental health, could come from other suppliers. “What we are saying is that for certain functions – for example, for mental health – there is a groundswell of desire for different functionality than our release phases.”
He suggested that Fujitsu might provide CSE-Serverlec’s RiO system as a mental health module on an “interim” basis, while continuing to build out the full Millennium system.