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NHS IT: More headaches as key project misses deadline

Lorenzo rollout in Morecambe Bay misses 31 March target
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Written by Nick Heath on

Lorenzo rollout in Morecambe Bay misses 31 March target

The giant £12.7bn programme to revamp NHS technology has been hit by more problems after a key supplier failed to hit a major project deadline.

The Lorenzo patient administration system - a computer system designed to handle electronic patient records and book appointments - was scheduled to go live at hospitals under the Morecambe Bay University Hospitals NHS Trust in Kendall in Cumbria yesterday.

The hospitals would have been the first in the country to be running the latest version of the software but CSC, the US supplier installing the system, failed to hit the 31 March target for delivery.

The Lorenzo system has been being rolled out to health trusts by CSC since 2008 but its implementation has repeatedly slipped.

The Department of Health (DoH) has now told CSC it must submit a revised plan for how it will implement the system or risk being dismissed as a contractor to the DoH.

A spokeswoman for the DoH said dismissal of CSC "is an option" but added "the hospitals are keen for [CSC] to deliver".

"Within the contract there is provision for the supplier to be given some time to come up with a revised timescale and we have to allow that," she said.

She said CSC would be given time to come up with a new plan for how it was going to implement Lorenzo at the Morecambe Bay site. This plan would then be analysed by the DoH to see whether it considers it to be "acceptable" and "realistic", before it decides whether to proceed with the plan.

Because of the delay to implementation of Lorenzo the DoH has held off signing a memorandum of understanding with CSC setting out revised terms for its contract.

Last year Department of Health CIO Christine Connelly told CSC that if the 31 March deadline was missed that the Department of Health would consider a new way of upgrading and supporting IT systems within the NHS.

NHS IT

The roll out of a key NHS IT system has been delayed further
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

The difficulty faced by the DoH is that CSC is one of only two suppliers left to the £12.7bn NHS IT revamp programme, the other being BT, after previous suppliers Accenture and Fujitsu pulled out.

Anthony Miller, managing partner with analyst house TechMarketView, said that lack of alternative suppliers would make it almost impossible for the DoH to ditch CSC.

"They are between the proverbial and a hard place," he said...

"CSC has so much knowledge, skill and experience at this point that if they were to have to find another supplier at this point it would delay the whole project phenomenally.

"These are hugely complex undertakings and even though it is hugely disappointing on both sides that they did not manage to hit this deadline throwing the rattle out of the pram at this stage is probably counter-productive. The key thing now is to try and come up with a more realistic timetable."

Paul Flynn, member of the IT working party for doctor's union the British Medical Association, said he felt it was important that the DoH was not too hung up on hitting targets at the expense of care being provided at the hospital.

"It is better for new systems to be rolled out gradually rather than being geared to a timetable which does not take into account the clinical necessity of having it working properly," he said.

"It would be good to see them being implemented on time but the fact they are not reflects the complexity of NHS systems."

CSC did not respond to silicon.com's request for comment.

The DoH also announced today it will cut £112m from the cost of implementing new systems in the London area after striking a new memorandum of understanding agreement with BT.

The savings will be made by scaling back plans to install new IT systems within hospitals in London and bolting on new software to hospitals' legacy systems instead. The DoH said the new agreement will also give hospitals and GP surgeries more power to choose the IT systems they want rather than having to accept those chosen by the DoH.

The DoH said that it expects to soon reach a similar agreement with CSC.

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