Isle of Man snubs iSoft

Island's Treasury turns down the troubled NHS software provider for deployment in its healthcare network

The Isle of Man has snubbed medical software that is central to the NHS's National Programme for IT (NPfIT) in the UK.

In the island's annual budget on Tuesday, it was confirmed that iSoft software, as offered by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), had been turned down in favour of that offered by System C, a UK systems integrator that is itself working on CSC's NHS contracts.

While the Isle of Man is located just 30 miles from British shores, it is not part of the UK, and so it is not obliged to follow the healthcare IT route offered by Connecting for Health (CfH), the NHS department responsible for NPfIT. The only responsibility it has in that regard is that its medical records have to be compatible with those to be stored on the UK data spine. The only responsibility it has in that regard is that its medical records have to be compatible with those to be stored on the centralised NHS patient database, known as the "Spine", so patients can cross to the mainland for certain types of medical treatment.

Speaking to ZDNet UK on Thursday, the Isle of Man Treasury's director of information systems, Allan Paterson, said that — following a tendering process — the island had decided to go with System C's software, as what System C offers "exists, can be touched today and gets full buy-in and support from consultants". Describing the project as "our own version of CfH", he criticised CfH itself for "offering so few strategic partners".

Despite being iSoft's most important product for the NHS, its Lorenzo patient management software package has yet to appear. Delays in the rollout of Lorenzo are believed to have been central to Accenture's expensive withdrawal from NPfIT — work that went to rival contractor CSC — and iSoft has been accused of "overselling" its delivery targets. It is thought that iSoft is now looking for a buyer. Overall, NPfIT has been a troubled project and has weathered heavy criticism over its timetable and costs, and the perceived lack of enthusiasm for it among medical staff.

Paterson said that System C's software would be rolled out across the Isle of Man, which has just over 80,000 inhabitants, by the end of this year. He added that the island had been forced to procure a new healthcare IT system because its existing EDS-supplied system would no longer be supported.

In recent years, the island has stepped up its drive to become something of a regional tech hub. Last year it abolished corporation tax in a bid to attract technology firms, and it also played host to trials of HSDPA — high-speed 3G — before the technology was rolled out in the UK. The island's telecoms company, Manx Telecom, is a subsidiary of O2 and Alcatel-Lucent.

The island has also rolled out a unified IP network, called Connect Mann, across its entire governmental structure, covering 180 locations from the Tynwald (the Manx parliament) to the harbourmasters' huts. Paterson claimed that implementing the voice, data and video network had resulted in savings of £1.4m — a figure that may seem small, but which in fact represents 42 percent of the crown dependent's communications budget. The Cisco-based IP telephony network is managed by Manx Telecom, which will shortly roll out a next-generation carrier network across the island — roughly analogous to BT's 21st Century Network in the UK.