Schlumberger-Sema and its partner Cerner look set to emerge as the winner of the prestigious contract for a national electronic appointment booking system. The contract will be the first major systems procurement contract to be awarded by the National programme for IT in the NHS.

Following the ‘de-selection’ last week of EDS from the e-booking procurement competition, as exclusively revealed by E-Health Insider, multiple industry sources now indicate that the e-booking contract looks set to be awarded Schlumberger-Sema bidding a Cerner solution within the next few weeks.

Though Schlumberger-Sema has not been notified that it will be put forward as the recommended solution, sources strongly indicate that Fujitsu, the other remaining competitor in the procurement competition, has been notified its bid will not be recommended for final contract award. Fujitsu is now understood to be redoubling its efforts on its local service provider bid.

With only a few weeks to go before the contract for the high profile e-bookings programme is due to be awarded, in order to meet the deadlines the national programme need to be in a position to recommend one offer to be signed off by either the responsible minister or NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp.

But the idea that an eventual winner for the e-booking contract has already been selected, even unofficially, is flatly rejected by the national programme itself. A spokesperson denied that a winner had been chosen; or that a preferred bidder had been selected; and stressed that the procurement remained competitive. “We don’t have a preferred bidder.”

NHS IT Director Richard Granger has in fact always made clear that the programme would not include a preferred supplier stage in its procurement competitions, but would move directly to contract award.

One industry source noted “No doubt if the national programme cannot reach contractual close with Schlumberger-Sema/Cerner, Fujitsu would have the opportunity to step in.” Though if this eventuality were to arise it would clearly have a significant impact on the tight timescales the national programme procurements are being run to.

Repeated questions put to the national programme by E-Health Insider this week elicited the statement: “There continues to be a number of formal processes and approvals to be undertaken and obtained leading up to the contract award. A formal announcement about the successful bidder will be made in the next three to four weeks.”

Firms involved in the procurement competition have been similarly tight-lipped. Bound by confidentiality clauses Schlumberger-Sema simply stated that it has not been notified of any contract award.

Link: EDS ‘De-selected’ from E-Booking Contract – 15/09/03