The government has issued a tender notice for additional IT systems and services worth at least £100m to support the NHS’s 12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
But the tender documents say Connecting for Health, which runs NPfIT, “cannot guarantee or estimate” the final value of the contracts closely linked to NPfIT.
The framework agreement, dubbed Additional Supply Capability and Capacity (ASCC), will cover the provision of information and communications technology services, clinical information technology services, hardware and infrastructure, and testing services.
Connecting for Health has denied that a second batch of suppliers would offer NHS trusts that are frustrated with slow delivery of national programme systems a way round the exclusive contracts signed with NPfIT lead contractors CSC, BT and Fujitsu.
Speaking before publication of the tender notice, a spokesperson said the framework agreement was designed to “secure additional capacity for future NHS needs”.
She added: “If trusts have requirements that are outside the existing exclusive contract arrangements, they will be able to use this framework route to meet those needs. Trusts will not be able to buy core systems from the accredited suppliers [under the new framework agreement].”
But the tender documents reveal that the contracts will be closely tied to the delivery of NPfIT and will offer trusts wide scope to deal with gaps in the programme’s IT provision.
It says the agreement “will establish a complementary procurement route to existing authority and Department of Health contractual arrangements for the procurement of IT systems and services” by NHS and social care bodies, adding: “The framework will also assist with the success and delivery of the National Programme for IT.”
The nature of the systems and services to be provided under the ASCC contracts suggest that they will be used to provide trusts with the local infrastructure and integration testing to ensure the nationally procured core systems can actually be implemented.
The tender notice for the four-year agreement estimates that “as a result of immediate business needs and projects planned”, systems and services worth “in excess of” £100m will be procured at an early stage.
It adds: “The subsequent value of purchases will vary depending on the needs of the contracting authorities... and the authority cannot guarantee or estimate with certainty the levels of overall expenditure over the term of the framework.”