The National Programme for IT in the NHS is claiming up to £4.5m in compensation from BT for late delivery in providing the high speed broadband connections vital to providing new services under the £6.2 billion NHS IT modernisation programme.

According to a report in today’s Financial Times, BT and the NHS say they are seeking an agreed settlement, over delays to the roll-out of broadband connections to the NHS under the £530 million N3 contract awarded to BT in February.

The FT reports that the N3 contract, like other NPfIT contracts carries heavy penalties of non-delivery.  It quotes an NPfIT spokesman as saying: “we are in discussion with BT to seek an agreed settlement for a contribution from BT to the value of £4.5m".  Compensation would be provided to the NHS either in cash of in extra services to the programme.

Delays to N3 have meant that the NHS has been paying more for having to continue to use the more expensive, slower links already provided to the NHS by BT.

The same report goes on to state that the programme has confirmed that the time taken to negotiate contracts for Picture Archiving and Storage Systems (PACS), means that the target for a quarter of hospitals to be equipped with PACS by April 2005 will not be met.

A spokesperson for the NPfIT told E-Health Insider: "We are in discussion with BT to seek an agreed settlement for a contribution from BT to the value of some £4.5 million on the NPfIT N3 contract.

“This includes the original £800,000 penalty reported in the summer of 2004, and subsequent penalties for late delivery and also takes into account the consequent additional costs incurred by the NHS for more prolonged use of the more expensive existing NHS Net system."

In March of this year the national programme’s implementation schedule said that PACS would be rolled out to the first wave of acute trusts by “winter 2004”. The NPfIT told EHI: “At the time of the ministerial announcement of PACS in May 2004 we stated that the intention was to have 80% PACS coverage by summer of 2006 and the remaining 20% to be concluded by summer 2007 and that remains the target."

Announcements on which vendors had been awarded the “right" to supply PACS systems to each of the five local service providers were first made in May.  Since then only two deals have been confirmed as being signed, GE to supply PACS in the South and ComMedica to help supply PACS technology in the North West. 

Significant changes in the line-up of PACS vendors have occurred since the May announcement with Agfa thought to have replaced GE as expected supplier in the North East and East of England.

Last month Martyn Forrest Regional Implementation director for the North East cluster confirmed to E-Health Insider that he expected Accenture, the local service provider for the region, to sign a PACS deal with Agfa shortly.

The NPfIT say they “anticpate closing contracts shortly" for the supply of PACS by LSPs.