Healthcare IT suppliers have delivered a clear message to the government that the new Prime Service Provider (PSP) arrangements need to be brought on stream as soon as possible.

A position paper delivered to health secretary, Alan Milburn, by Intellect, the new association representing the UK IT, telecommunications and electronic industries, says, “Industry would like to see PSP arrangements in place as fast as possible with a contractual framework that is commercially viable but with sufficient flexibility to respond to emerging and changing requirements.”

The position paper, a copy of which has been seen by E-Health Insider, was developed after a workshop and consultation with potential PSPs, major current suppliers to the NHS and with specialist suppliers. It expresses concern at the damage being done by the current hiatus created by the government’s National Strategic Programme for IT and suggests action to arrest the damage.

“A rapid review of existing IT activity which complements the national programme needs to happen quickly to assess which IT projects at the local level can continue (as they contribute to and support the national programme) and which projects should be placed into hibernation pending the national programme implementation,” advises Intellect.

The five page paper strongly supports the case for the PSP model but delivers several cautions and warnings.

Intellect argues, “The PSP model is not new to industry, however, it is new to the NHS, it is new to many of the specialist application/service providers who currently serve the sector well and the NHS is a new sector for many potential PSPs. The PSP model is therefore a high-risk strategy for the NHS and the risks must be clearly identified and mitigated through the procurement process.

“Similar models have been successfully applied elsewhere and many of the potential PSP well understand how to structure such arrangements to minimise risk for all parties. Arrangements in the NHS must draw on this experience and avoid any temptation to apply innovative but unproven new approaches.”

Concern is expressed that current PASA contracts may not adequately handle the complex PSP arrangements and suggests that these should be reviewed without delay.

Intellect also offers firm views on the geographical division needed to make the PSP model work. It argues that seven to 12 groupings of strategic health authorities offer the most viable proposition.

” The current proposition – leaving the StHAs to naturally form groupings and then choose their preferred PSP from the national PSP shortlist offers no commitment to the bidding PSPs and also does not allow the potential PSPs to forecast return on investment to gain the necessary finance to bid for and invest in the programme,” the paper states.

In a section of observations on the National Strategic Programme, the association says that the NHS must acknowledge that industry expects to make a reasonable return on investments and must ensure a sufficiently attractive and commercially viable environment.

The paper reminds the NHS that it is not the technology that will deliver the benefits desired by the service, but the organisational change which the IT enables.

”Little will be realised unless significant organisational development skills and resources are targeted at process analysis and change, education, culture change and change management throughout all levels of the NHS. Much of this organisational development will need to be conducted ahead of IT system implementation,” says Intellect.