The leak of a confidential BT document, highlighting “material contractual issues", has raised concerns that the first June delivery dates of the National Programme for IT may prove extremely challenging to meet.

Phase one, release one of the national programme, which largely focuses on the first phase of the Data Spine and introduction of electronic booking over the national Data Spine at sites in Yorkshire and London, is due on 27 June; barely four weeks away.

The document, as reported in Computer Weekly, suggests the phase one release date of the Data Spine could be delayed due to issues around “the detailed definition of requirements and practical deployment not envisaged at the effective date of the agreement."

The leaked paper also says there have been “delays in requirements definitions and solution design” which have “adversely affected the interim milestones."

Key concerns reported from the leaked document include “inconsistencies” in contract schedules; “assumptions" made within system designs; integration of current legacy systems and the late delivery of supplies and products not handled by BT.

BT Syntegra won the ten-year, £996m contract last December to act as the LSP for London last December.  The firm was also awarded a £620m, 10-year contract to deliver the national data spine critical to the success of the national programme. 

In response to questions from EHI on the leaked report a national programme spokesperson said: “It is not surprising when managing a major and complex programme that there will be issues to address. It is part of the planned process for the implementation documentation to identify and resolve such issues."

Tim Smart, CEO of BT Syntegra, said that the internal document had been forwarded to stakeholders to seek their feedback. “The plan was developed in conjunction with the London Care Communities, and represents a work in progress."

Smart added: “There are over 7,000 detailed requirements in the contract we agreed with the national programme for our work in London. It took over five months of intensive discussion and detailed work to conclude it. As the programme advances, issues are identified, discussed, clarified and resolved with our customer. This was of course anticipated and is how it works in any complex programme."

Giving evidence to the Commons Health Select Committee on 20 May, Health minister John Hutton was asked whether the national programme was on target to meet the June deadline. He replied: “Things are happening, they will start happening in June with e-booking for GP appointments to see a consultant and the e-booking component of the national programme." 

Gordon Hextall, chief operating officer for NPfIT, gave further details to the committee of the preparations and testing underway for e-booking: “It is now into integration testing. BT, who are developing the NHS care record bit of this, are integrating that with Atos Origin, who developed the electronic booking, and the legacy suppliers who have the GP systems out there are all now, this week, actually testing their own software in the integration test-bed that we call the sandpit and we are monitoring that on a daily basis."

However, despite the rigorous process described by Hextall, EHI understands that the process of testing the connection of GP systems to the data spine has also been subject to delays and not been proceeding entirely smoothly.

When asked whether there any changes to the target dates for London, the national programme simply stated: “The LSPs are currently working towards achievement of agreed milestones."

In his evidence to the select committee Hutton went on to stress that even with extremely robust management in place a programme as ambitious as the national programme will inevitably run into difficulty: "There will be problems; of course there are going to be problems.  We have a very good set of arrangements in place and we have to maximize now the work we are doing with clinicians. 

“The potential here for the NHS, although there will be teething problems, is absolutely huge."