Nicholson pushed on £22m cost of Cerner

The chief executive of the NHS in England has been challenged to defend the deal that will see BT paid £22m for implementing Cerner Millennium at North Bristol NHS Trust.

As the senior responsible officer for the National Programme for IT in the NHS Sir David Nicholson has been asked to discrepancy between the £22m cost of Cerner Millennium at North Bristol and £8.2m cost of System C's Medway at neighbouring.

The cost for North Bristol is still £6.3m less than the average of £28.3m bill for a BT Cerner implementation in the South.

The figures are quoted in a letter to Sir David from Conservative MP Richard Bacon, member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

Bacon, last week wrote to Sir David Nicholson, asking about the steep prices being paid for the three ‘greenfield’ Cerner Millennium sites being delivered by BT in the South of England as part of a 2010 £542m contract.

The three are North Bristol, Bath and Oxford Radcliffe. All were meant to be live by the end of 2011.

The Norfolk MP asked the NHS chief executive to comment on the £22m cost of the implementation at Bristol, plus a 56 month service contract. According to the National Audit office the average cost of a Cerner implementation in the South under BT is £28.3m

Bacon asked the NHS chief executive why the cost of North Bristol appeared to be three times the figure for the System C PAS and clinicals being provided to University Hospitals Bristol for a reported £8.2m over seven year.

Bacon’s letter to Sir David states: “As the Senior Responsible Owner for the National Programme, can you give your explicit undertaking that the North Bristol contract represents value for money for taxpayers.”

He goes on to ask the NHS chief executive why – according to a memorandum supplied to the Public Accounts Committee by the DH following the 23 May PAC hearing on NPfIT - the implementation dates for the three Cerner ‘greenfield’ sites in the South have once again slipped.

EHI has been unable to get an official go-live date from any of the three trusts, but understands that Oxford is still working to a firm 2011 go-live date – pencilled in for mid-November. 

However, sources close to the trusts dispute Bacon's assertion and say that they continue to progress projects.  But none of the trusts are offering hostages to fortune on dates.

Royal United Hospitals Bath declined to comment on its go-live date but sources close to the project say the trust is working to an end of July deadline. 

In February EHI reported that after lengthy delays, first under Fujitsu and more recently under BT, the trust was working to a July 2011 go-live date.

This week the trust told EHI, that it does no longer has a firm go-live date.

In a statement to EHI the trust said: “We are working to deploy Cerner Millennium in line with our plans. There are still several steps to go through before a go live date can be confirmed.”

EHI has also been to get North Bristol NHS Trust to confirm when it now plans to go live with Cerner, which it had been committed to do so by the end of the December. According to the Bacon letter the trust had previously been due to go live by 4 June, later moved to 2 July.

However, senior sources at the trust maintain that the implementation is going well.

In his letter to the NHS chief executive Bacon said the North Bristol implementation date had repeatedly slipped. He asked "why it now appears that there is no agreed delivery date at all?”

Last updated: 7 July 2011 14:13

Jon Hoeksma and Daloni Carlisle

7 July 2011

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