The National Programme for IT will be radically overhauled if its major suppliers fail to deliver soon, the DoH director of informatics has warned.
Christine Connelly told an IT conference in Harrogate last week that BT and CSC, which are providing care records systems to acute hospitals, have six months to get their act together.
'If we don't see significant progress by the end of November 2009, we will move to a new plan for delivering informatics to healthcare,' she said.
Connecting for Health (CfH) declined to comment on details of the contingency plan.
Ms Connelly also proposed to open up the IT market by allowing trusts in southern England, previously covered by a contract with Fujitsu, to buy a care records system from the 10 firms on the Additional Supply and Capacity Framework - a list of suppliers vetted by the DoH.
This decision marks a major shift for the beleaguered programme. CfH has been widely criticised for awarding regional block contracts to deliver the patient record systems, instead of using open competition.
Suppliers have struggled to deliver working systems on time and to budget. Last year Fujitsu dropped out altogether after failing to agree contract changes.
Sean Riddell, the managing director of EMIS Healthcare, said the decision was 'pragmatic and realistic'.
'The roll-out of a single system hasn't gone at the speed it predicted. It is looking at its contracts and, where they're not delivering, evoking the non-performance clauses. That's just how the contract works, the only difference is it made a public statement about it.'
He added that the key to making the care records system work is interoperability. If that exists, 'it really doesn't matter which system is installed in each hospital'.
Ms Connelly also launched a new 'toolkit', under which CfH will accredit locally developed programmes to link with existing systems. This is expected to be ready by 2010.
Her review of the programme found that it is delivering value for money, by only paying suppliers on successful delivery of working systems.
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