Procurement: spate v blight

With the advent of the demise of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) will we see a procurement spate or blight?

Eight days ago we heard for the third time from the coalition government that NPfIT is dead and in last week’s blog, Sarah Bruce questioned once again whether this is finally it? Surely the cancellation of the contracts and a potentially enormous legal dispute could cripple the Department of Health, so is the intention just to let the LSP contracts ‘wither on the vine?’

Either way the announcement that Intellect will be working with the Department of Health’s Informatics Directorate is very welcome, especially after it has launched a campaign to engage with over 280 healthcare suppliers of different types and sizes.

Interestingly there are far more IT vendors now than at the start of the NPfIT, many who went away to other countries after being shut out from the programme have come back much stronger.

The view from Mike Sinclair, vice-chair BCS Health, is particularly interesting. He explains: “While we welcome this move, we are concerned however, that this is being done in the absence of an informatics strategy and without any guidance on the future of existing contracts or whether money will be devolved into the NHS alongside responsibility.”

Sinclair appears to be absolutely right. Will chief executives of NHS trusts now be applying for their part of the £12 billion? If this is the case then no procurements will take place as they wonder whether IT funding will be released from the centre. Or perhaps will we see the demise of the NPfIT as removing the ‘’handcuffs’ from NHS trusts keen to start their own procurements. Either way IT vendors should see some very interesting times.

As IT professionals we have a duty to support the government’s transformation agenda. But how will the systems and infrastructure be procured to support the transformation? It is key that procurement takes places within the appropriate timescales and if those timescales fall into many months or potentially years, then there will really be no transformation at all.

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