"No believable plan" for key NHS IT software

Leaked report casts doubt on iSoft's release schedule...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

Leaked report casts doubt on iSoft's release schedule...

There is "no believable plan" for the development of the key clinical records software at the heart of the NHS' £6.2bn IT programme, according to a leaked review of the plans.

The review of troubled healthcare software company iSoft's development roadmap for the Lorenzo clinical records software was compiled by NHS IT lead contractors Accenture and CSC.

iSoft is currently developing an interim version of the product for use by GPs - due to be ready in October this year - and claims it will have a full version of the Lorenzo software ready for use in NHS trusts by the second quarter of 2008.

But the review, seen by silicon.com, said this timetable is "highly optimistic" and raises concerns about whether the iSoft product will even be fit for purpose when it is ready.

The document said there is "no well-defined scope and therefore no believable plan for releases beyond Lorenzo GP", and that any scope and planning is "entirely speculative".

One of the major concerns raised by Accenture and CSC in the report is that iSoft is building a generic solution that will require time-consuming and costly customisation to meet the needs of the Connecting for Health (CfH) NHS IT programme.

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Read silicon.com's feature The nine projects at the heart of NHS IT for the lowdown on the colossal £6.2bn IT upgrade.

The report said: "There is a significant risk that an evaluation of the 'gap' between the needs of CfH and the capability of the generic solution will require significant rework of product and platform layers. This will likely lead to schedule slippage."

The report adds that iSoft's release dates are also only for delivery of the software to the lead NHS IT contractors, with typical estimates of an additional six to nine months before it is rolled out in hospitals.

Concerns are also expressed in the report about the ability of the Lorenzo software to scale to the required level.

The report said: "Recent benchmarks of the application are not encouraging with average response times of four seconds (and this with key operability features of the architecture disabled). CfH response time requirements are sub-second."

iSoft shares fell on Monday morning in response to the leaked report and the company did not respond to a request for comment.

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A CfH spokesman said: "NHS CfH does not comment on leaked reports. However, we look to our prime contractors to manage the sub-contractors to ensure that systems are delivered to our specification, are fit for purpose and have no clinical risk. All systems are rigorously tested before deployment into the NHS to ensure there is no clinical risk for patients."

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