Wednesday, 28 January 2009

BT Global Services and the NHS - Part 3

(By Richard Holway) Further to my postings last week See BT Global Services – Part 2 - there have been a flurry of news articles on the subject of BT and the NHS IT projects. Basically the reports indicate that BT is about to be awarded the contracts given up by Fujitsu (but still being supported by Fujitsu) earlier in the year. Ie they would take over Winchester & Eastleigh, Surrey & Sussex, Weston Area, Taunton & Somerset, Nuffield Orthopeadic Centre, Milton Keynes and Worthing & Southampton NHS Trusts which run Cerner’s Millennium systems. The same as BT is installing in the London LSP. It was further reported that Stephen O'Brien, shadow minister for health, said the new contract "will be handed to BT without a proper tendering process and could end up costing the taxpayer an extra £500million".

This seems a little wide of the truth!

My understanding is, as I said last week, that BT is still in hard and close negotiations over this. I understand that no deal has been agreed. Also, I can’t really see the logic of BT agreeing to take on these extra contracts when it is still in equally hard and close negotiations over the future of the London LSP. Surely they get agreed together or at least London first?

As my much respected old Ovum Holway colleague – Tola Sargeant - in their post BT takes £340m charge on Global services with more to come today said ”Unless BT and NHS CFH can resolve these issues quickly, we could see BT follow in the footsteps of fellow local service providers Fujitsu and Accenture, which have already left the programme. Such a development would call into question the future of NPfIT itself.”

The one bit that does ring true though is that the contract would not be subject to the full re-bid process. To be fair to the NHS, they did set up the system in the beginning to ensure that failing partner's contracts could be taken over by the remaining providers. Who, after all, could ever forget Richard Granger’s husky jibe! What was unforeseen at the time was that so many huskies would die and be fed to the remainder. The pack now consists of just CSC and BT so the NHS would seem to have little choice unless they really do want to hand the lot over to just one provider.

Of course, the main alternative to all this is to let the local Trusts go ahead and install their own systems – particularly for Care Records. Some have started to do this and several others are rumoured to be following suite.

When this ill-fated NHS project started the example often given was of me falling ill whilst visiting Edinburgh and the hospital having instant access to my medical records in Farnham. But the vast majority (I would guess 99%) of all patient records are only ever accessed within one NHS Trust (GP, local hospital, local consultant etc) So local systems are really not so out of order.

Also, the main opposition from the public to the current Care Records system is that it allows 800,000 NHS employees to access your medical records. Even if the record only says what medication you are currently on (rather than your particular illness), if they fell into the ‘wrong hands’ it would be quite easy to deduce if you suffering from alcoholism, HIV, a STD etc – all of which might well affect your job, insurance quote or other aspect of your life. And, let’s face it, nobody has any faith in data security anymore.

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