IT services supplier Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) has had to pay penalties totalling around £5m for late delivery of patient administration software to NHS trusts in the North Midlands and East, under the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

The scale of the penalty payments accumulated by CSC for late delivery of PAS software are detailed in a paper from the North West Strategic Health Authority NPfIT board.

The November paper states: “With regard to the arrangements for managing financial consequences arising from deployment delays, it was noted that to date, approximately £5m of penalty payments from CSC had accrued across NME [North Midlands and East].”

The NME Board said that it had been decided for the time being to retain the sum centrally “rather than distribute to individual SHAs or purchase additional services of that value from CSC”.

CSC declined to comment on the scale of any fines, saying they related to confidential commercial arrangements.

The North West NPfIT board report goes on to state that not only are there continuing delays to the strategic Lorenzo software to be provdided by CSC, but also delays to updates, or ‘maintenance releases’, for the existing iSoft iPM PAS software being offered by CSC.

Against this background, and the limitations of the PAS on offer, further NHS trusts are baulking at taking iPM.

“Delays in PAS maintenance releases were having a knock-on effect on the implementation of the programme. There were recognised limitations with the interim PAS system (iPM) and trusts were increasingly reluctant to switch from their existing systems to iPM.”

The report says that these concerns are reducing confidence in the overall programme and CSC’s eventual delivery of its replacement to iPM, Lorenzo. “These problems in turn were reducing confidence in the programme as a whole and raising questions about whether the strategic solution to be delivered (Lorenzo) would be effective.”

Similar concerns are also raised in a minute provided to the North West NPfIT board setting out the major issues faced in delivering NPfIT in Cheshire and Merseyside. “The continuing delays in the availability of the Lorenzo system, which undermines the credibility of the while National Programme for Information Technology. In the meantime, existing suppliers continue to develop their products, which makes it even harder to persuade trusts to move to Lorenzo.”

The Cheshire and Merseyside minute goes on to identify repeated delays and missed deadlines as another major issue, describing “the lack of confidence created by repeated undelivered promises…”

The document also highlights limited clinical functionality as a further concern. “The lack of clinical functionality in the current patient administration system from CSC means that clinicians are disengaging from the programme and looking elsewhere for clinical solutions.”

Commenting on progress of Lorenzo development CSC told EHI: "The Lorenzo development is continuing on plan and we are in the final stages of agreeing the roll-out of this new platform with the first release being available in 2008. The new Lorenzo platform is being delivered in four releases which offers greater flexibility and earlier access to clinical functionality."

CSC added that Connecting for Health have visited the development centre in Chennai and "remain pleased with progress".

The LSP says deployment of the software will be to a set of early adopters who have been working with CSC since earlier 2007. "These are the local health communities of South Birmingham, Morecambe Bay and Bradford & Airedale. We have been actively demonstrating Lorenzo to clinicians and managers across our regions and have received extremely positive feedback."

Jon Hoeksma