An NHS team was put on standby to take charge of crisis-ridden software supplier iSoft and ensure delivery of a critical part of the health service’s new computer system, the government has confirmed.
The troubled software supplier is contracted to provide its Lorenzo care records system – which lies at the heart of the NHS’s £12.4bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) – in three out of five regions where CSC is the lead contractor.
Concern over the delivery of Lorenzo – already running more than two years late – escalated as the company spiralled into chaos. The software firm has been seeking a buyer since last year and is now set to be taken over by German firm CompuGroup.
But a dispute with CSC over the software company’s earlier plans for a sell-off threw iSoft into renewed turmoil, with the lead contractor and its supplier heading for a showdown in the courts before the dispute was eventually resolved.
Health minister Ben Bradshaw has now confirmed that the NHS Connecting for Health, the agency that runs NPfIT, was prepared to exercise its contractual step-in rights to take control.
Under the NPfIT contracts, Connecting for Health can exercise step-in rights “on an exceptional basis and in the event of certain critical circumstances, for the purpose of maintaining continuity of delivery and service for the NHS”, Bradshaw revealed.
“Action was taken to exercise this provision in relation to iSoft on a contingency basis, and a joint team of appropriately-experienced NHS and private sector programme managers and software engineers identified for the purpose,” he added.
There had been “no standby costs, but some limited expenditure has been incurred in monitoring the circumstances surrounding the recent uncertainty over the future of iSoft”, Bradshaw said, in response to parliamentary questions from shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien.
But Bradshaw did not reveal the costs of the standby work, saying this had not been separately recorded.