Accenture 'pulling out of NHS IT project'

Update: Reports that Accenture is abandoning its £2bn NPfIT contract are dismissed as 'rumour and speculation' by the NHS, but all parties suggest that changes are imminent
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

NHS Connecting for Health has refused to confirm press reports on Thursday morning which have suggested that Accenture — the largest contractor in the massive NHS IT overhaul — is pulling out of the project.

According to reports in the Guardian and Financial Times, the technology services and consultancy firm is set to abandon its £2bn contract in the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

But a spokesperson for Connecting for Health, the NHS department that manages NPfIT, told ZDNet UK on Thursday morning that the reports were "rumour and speculation which we're not going to comment on".

However, the spokesperson indicated that a statement could be forthcoming later in the day, as did Accenture's spokesperson, who refused to comment immediately on "what currently is media speculation".

Accenture, which has blamed its subcontractor iSoft for delays in the delivery of key NPfIT components such as the Lorenzo software package, is understood to have been unhappy with the contract for some time. Press reports have speculated that its NHS work will be transferred to Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), which also subcontracts iSoft.

A spokesperson for iSoft also refused to comment at this stage, calling the reports "pure speculation".

Analysts believe that Accenture's reputation could be badly damaged if it abandons its NPfIT contract.

"Accenture's reputation in the UK public sector is bound to take a battering if it does have to walk away from two such high profile contracts, whatever the reasoning," said Tola Sergeant, an Ovum analyst, on Thursday morning.

Sergeant added that Connecting for Health would not be as damaged by the debacle, as it "will be able to claim justification for its procurement approach, which divided the local implementation contracts into five regions with four different prime contractors in order to maintain competition between suppliers and provide a safety net should one or more suppliers fail to deliver".

James Hall, the Accenture executive responsible for its NHS contracts, left the company recently to become head of the Identity and Passport Service, with responsibility for overseeing the proposed introduction of ID cards.

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