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No clean bill of health for £3bn NHS patient record project

Health trust 'not happy about the level of functionality delivered'...

Health trust 'not happy about the level of functionality delivered'...

NHS care records project

The NHS care records project has run into fresh trouble, according to a government reportPhoto: Shutterstock

A project to roll out electronic health records for NHS patients in England has run into fresh problems, according to a government report.

The Lorenzo electronic patient record system is being deployed to health trusts in the north and east of England and the Midlands. However, the deployment is behind schedule, with Lorenzo having been rolled out to just four health trusts since the project began in 2002.

One of the four health trusts where Lorenzo has been deployed has already rejected the system and now a second, Birmingham Women's Hospital Trust, is "not happy about the level of functionality delivered" by Lorenzo, according to a Cabinet Office report published on Monday.

The supplier rolling out the Lorenzo system, CSC, believes it has met its contractual obligations to the Birmingham trust, the report said, adding that the Department of Health's informatics body Connecting for Health "expects to resolve this difference of opinion soon". However, the report said the current version of Lorenzo that has been deployed is "a long way short of the full functionality of the contracted solution".

Given the rate at which the Lorenzo system has been rolled out so far, the report casts doubt on whether CSC will be able to deploy it to all 221 trusts before its £3bn contract ends in 2015.

"There is no certainty that CSC would deliver fully in the remaining time of the contract," the report said.

Despite the problems with the Lorenzo rollout flagged in the report, it is unclear whether the Cabinet Office believes its deployment should be halted, due to the heavily redacted nature of the report.

The report suggests that if the deployment of Lorenzo is to continue, "clear dates" for delivery should be set out with an "understanding that there can be no failure to deliver" and that terms under which trusts can "walk away" from the deployment need to be established upfront.

The Department of Health has been in talks with CSC for more than a year about renegotiating the terms of its contract, and has previously said it expects to reduce the contract's value by £500m. In its report, the Cabinet Office says CSC has put forward a proposal for de-scoping the project but has not detailed what the proposal involves.