Fujitsu Services has officially awarded a contract to Cerner Ltd in order to provide its Millennium clinical software to NHS organisations across the South of England under the NHS National Programme for IT.

The contract, signed on Friday, 2 September, covers using Cerner’s Millennium software for the NHS Care Records Service in the Southern Cluster. Fujitsu is the Local Service Provider to the South of England, and in January 2003 was awarded a £896 million contract by the Department of Health’s to provide modern NHS IT systems across the region.

“We are very pleased to be working with Cerner in the Southern Cluster and to have completed the change of supplier,” said Peter Hutchinson, managing director, public sector, Fujitsu Services. “We are confident that we can now deploy our strategic solutions and deliver the patient benefits promised by the programme.”

David Sides, managing director of Cerner in the UK, added: "In the last eight weeks, we have been involved with Fujitsu engaging with more than 1,000 NHS staff throughout the Southern Cluster in various design sessions, demonstrations and deployment activities."

In June Fujitsu announced that it had received permission from NHS Connecting for Health, the agency now responsible for delivering the IT programme, to replace its key sub-contractor IDX systems with Cerner’s Millennium product.

According to Fujitsu preparatory work for deploying Cerner systems has been underway since June at 17 trusts in the Southern cluster, being carried out in parallel with contract negotiations. Connecting for Health says that the first systems will go live in the South "at around the turn of the year". Sources in the South indicate that the objective is to implement Millennium at six initial sites by April 2006.

E-Health Insider understands that Cerner will be implementing the anglicised version of its Millennium product that was originally developed for the Homerton and Newham hospitals in London.

EHI further understands that while Millennium will enable electronic patient records to be shared across a local health community – covering community and hospital services – to enable rapid deployment it will not initially link to the NHS data spine.

If the South does succeed in making rapid progress delivering spineless integrated clinical systems to health communities it may raise fresh questions over how prominently the spine should feature in the systems to be delivered in the other four clusters.

In awarding the January 2003 contract to Fujitsu NPfIT rejected rival bids from Sema, based on Cerner’s Millennium product for the South, and a bid EDS and LogicaCMG bidding iSOFT.

Despite being the most populous region of England the South was awarded for a lower price than the other four regions contracts – the price tag on the North East contract awarded to Accenture was £1,099 million.

The South of England cluster comprises the counties of Kent, Surrey, East & West Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Dorset, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bristol, Gloucestershire, Devon, and Cornwall & Isles of Scilly.