LSP withdrawal sparks fears for NHS IT plans

GPs have condemned the national programme for IT to date as a ‘colossal waste of time and money' after its largest service provider withdrew last week.

IT consultancy firm Accenture stood down as local service provider (LSP) for the North East and Eastern clusters of the programme last week after concern over the speed of its work in secondary care. Accenture said that its withdrawal would accelerate work.  

CSC, currently the LSP for the North West and West Midlands cluster, will take over responsibility for the two other areas by 7 January 2007.    

GPs fear that the decision to install a single firm as LSP in three of the five clusters in England could leave the IT programme at greater risk of large-scale collapse.  

GPC member Dr Trefor Roscoe said: ‘CSC is sailing into uncharted waters by taking on something this big. If it fails, it is more than half the project.  

‘One reason for multiple LSPs was to reduce the risk to the overall programme from major system failures or management difficulties. If there’s a problem now, it could have a big impact on the stability of the NHS as a whole.’  

Dr Charles Broomhead, a professional executive committee member in Birmingham East and North PCT, where CSC is the existing LSP, said: ‘I am concerned CSC may be overstretched by taking on three areas and could take its eye off the ball.’  

He said the LSP change was likely to cause further delay with implementation of IT programme initiatives.  

Dr Paul Cundy, chairman of the joint RCGP and GPC IT committee, said CSC would implement products that had existed since 2001 across its clusters.  

‘We are five years and £1 billion in consultancy fees down the line, and now we will receive systems that were available years ago. It appears to have been a colossal waste of time and money.’  

Practices in Accenture areas have claimed that they have been pressurised to transfer to clinical IT systems from The Phoenix Partnership, the preferred supplier contracted by the LSP, and hoped the firm’s departure would boost choice.  

Peter Edwards, systems and development administrator at Knebworth and Marymead practice in Hertfordshire, hoped it would be easier for his practice to retain its EMIS IT system. CSC is the only LSP with a supply contract with EMIS, the system that is used by more than half of GPs.  

A Connecting for Health spokesman said: ‘CSC’s track record in deployment is good and we believe it has the capacity and capability to do this.’  

A CSC spokeswoman denied old software would be used. Taking on new clusters was a ‘challenge’ but she promised ‘a more comprehensive service’.  

LSP regions

Cluster  LSPs
North East  CSC
Eastern CSC
North West and West Midlands  CSC
Southern Fujitsu Alliance
London BT

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