NHS IT Tsar Richard Granger pledged this week that a new procurement strategy will be published in January 2003 and gave some heavy hints about the new direction for IT procurement that would be used to deliver the NHS IT programme.

Speaking to suppliers at a forum in London he promised that the new procurement approach will be more streamlined and effective, but added that it would include a greater emphasis on suppliers fully demonstrating their ability to deliver.

A new framework will ‘transfer capacity’ to suppliers who perform; those who fail to meet performance standards will have capacity transferred from them. In addition, only systems that pass a detailed accreditation process will be deployed within the national programme.

A Department of Health spokesperson told E-Health Insider the procurement strategy would represent a compact between the supplier industry and the NHS: the DH would make the procurement process quicker and easier but in return “firms need to be more realistic and focused about what they can deliver".

The spokesperson added that announcements about funding of the national programme “are likely to be made in the early New Year", but confirmed that the money had been ring-fenced and had been built into departmental spending plans.

Mr Granger said, “Details of the procurement process will be made available in January, and will clarify the new direction for NHS IT procurement."

Referring to the consultation on procurement that closed in August, he noted: "From comments received, it is obvious that one of the main concerns is the need to streamline the whole process, and this will happen.

“However, it is also apparent that there needs to be a greater emphasis on suppliers fully demonstrating their ability to play a major part in delivering the largest civil IT programme currently underway."

Mr Granger made clear to suppliers that a central part of the procurement strategy will be to accredit systems. “A major component of the procurement strategy will be to verify the functional performance, scalability, and interoperability of suppliers’ software offerings."

He stressed that accreditation of products through the national procurement programme will be a pre-requisite to their deployment within the NHS.

In addition to having to have their systems accredited through the national procurement programme suppliers will be closely performance managed, and be paid based on results. How performance will be measured was not made clear.

Mr Granger added that there will be a new framework which will transfer business capacity to suppliers who perform. Initially this will relate to the allocation of implementation work.

Once the roll out of services is complete suppliers will be subject to an annual performance assessment. Where supplier performance fails to meet standards, business capacity will be transferred.

Granger stressed: "Modernised IT services across the NHS, across England, will be subject to the same conditions as the rest of the NHS. Extra resources are going in – but this is to be accompanied by reform. Payment will be made by results – the supplier community will be rewarded for delivery.

“There is only one outcome from this programme and that is the successful implementation of 21st Century IT for the NHS in partnership with suppliers who perform."