Ken LaceyLinda Davidson

Accenture’s chief who is leading work in North-east and Eastern England has made it clear that the company won’t give up on NHS trusts that have declined to take solutions currently on offer under the National Programme for IT.

Ken Lacey, global managing partner for Accenture’s health and life sciences practice, expressed his respect for people in NHS trusts working on IT modernisation saying that they are “good circumspect buyers who know what they require. When they’ve got that they will buy it.”

He was speaking to E-Health Insider at the HIMSS conference in San Diego, just a year after an interview in which he predicted deployments to GPs, hospitals and mental health services would begin by Easter 2005.

The one topic off-limits – due to agreements signed by Accenture – was iSoft, its clinical solutions contractor in both English regions, and the recent announcements of troubles with iSoft’s earnings from the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

The clearest hint of his thoughts on the matter came in his forecast for the next 12 months. “We expect to be in a much better position. We expect to take the solution we have and other solutions – and they could be different versions of the solutions – and deploy these at scale.

“It feels to me that there’s a resolve at the new SHAs [strategic health authorities] and clusters, with Connecting for Health, to deploy significant amounts. Between the three parties I think we will be extremely successful next year.”

Realistic but hopeful

Looking back over the past year, Lacey says Accenture would always like to be deploying more solutions into its huge geographical slice of the NHS running from the Scottish border in the north to Essex in the South.

But he observes: “This is a very challenging programme for all sorts of reasons. We feel like we’re succeeding in delivering, but we don’t want that coming across that we’re happy where we are or complacent.”

His analysis of the current situation is realistic but hopeful. “There have been slow downs in the programme in a number of ways. I feel like we, with CfH, the trusts, the SHAs and DH [Department of Health] are coming through that to be successful, along with other LSPs.”

One area in Accenture’s LSPs that has seen good progress is the deployment of GP and community systems using the LSP’s ‘alternative’ supplier, TPP. Lacey says they are “extremely good solutions” liked by the people who have taken them. He is also pleased that Accenture has notched up the first go-live for a prison health solution under the national programme.

Liquidlogic’s progress in automating the single assessment process for determining a person’s health and social care needs has also provided some good news in areas where, Lacey points out, nothing existed before.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, too, with picture archiving and communication systems (PACS). After a long wrangle over contracts, Agfa was appointed as the North-east and Eastern PACS supplier last year and Lacey expects the first deployment in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, soon.

He is impressed by the Agfa solution – IMPAX 6.0 – which was launched at the Radiological Society of North America’s conference last year. It was showcased at HIMSS last week where Agfa announced that 75 of the 100 plus orders received for the system were for NHS hospitals.

All in all, he reckons Accenture has clocked up “over 600 deployments that would never have happened in the old environment.”

Lacey – an American who lives in the UK – expresses one regret. He speaks rather ruefully of the “British angle on being critical of what goes on.” His forecasts suggest that 2006 should bring a lot to cheer.