Senior NHS IT staff at two of the Lorenzo pilot sites have told E-Health Insider off the record that the initial version of the software looks promising and, subject to testing, is ready for use in the English NHS.

Following months of testing, senior NHS managers from two of the three initial Lorenzo sites, told EHI that after much configuration, the first limited R1 version of the software is now ready for use in the North, Midlands and East Programme for IT.

The R1 software, which is not spine compliant, is designed to offer trusts some initial clinical benefits. It is understood to offer requests and results reporting (though not requesting), some views of electronic patient records, and some elements of a patient administration system.

However, despite their positive assessment the contacts declined to discuss the software in detail or go on the record, telling EHI it would place them in breach of their contract with CSC. Similarly, CSC refused to comment.

The long-awaited software, developed by iSoft and delivered by the CSC Alliance, was first meant to be delivered by the end of 2004. The initial R1 version of the software is now promised by summer for initial limited delivery to four NHS organisations in three pilot sites: South Birmingham, Morecombe Bay, Bradford and Nottingham.

The extended delays to the strategic software, selected for three-fifths of the English health service, have led to widespread concerns from clinicians, politicians and many others close to the £12.4bn National Programme for IT, and helped cost iSoft its independence – contributing to a financial crisis and leading to IBA Health’s acquisition of iSoft in 2007.

The news should provide a boost for iSoft and IBA ahead of the Healthcare Computing conference in Harrogate, where the company has promised to demonstrate Lorenzo Clinicals (Lorenzo Regional Care).

According to CSC, the complete R1 solution will include: requests and results, task management, EPR views, clinical documentation, the core Lorenzo framework, legitimate relationship service, multi-campus functionality and inbound but not outbound patient admission discharge and transfer messages.

Sources from the NHS reference sites say they believe Lorenzo Release 2, which is due to include full PAS functionality, should finally be available by the end of the year.

CSC has held a series of stakeholder events with its strategic partners at sporting venues across the region. Lorenzo was first demonstrated at Newmarket race course in November 2007, with details of the Penfield strategy released to the four sites – Morecambe Bay, Nottingham, Bradford and South Birmingham.

One member of the NHS strategic partners review panel told EHI: “With the initial talk at Newmarket we weren’t sure what to expect. We were told of the Penfield [Lorenzo release strategy] strategy, but the ideas seemed to focus on releasing the German system here. We wanted a system more suited to the NHS and so we immediately set upon working on it to ensure it is what the NHS needs.”

Another added: “Newmarket didn’t fill us with total confidence. It’s safe to say contingency plans were being arranged in case Penfield fell apart.”

Since then, Lorenzo R1 has been scrutinised by the strategic partners, and CSC Alliance has worked closely with the partners to ensure the system is ready for this summer.

The three early adopter sites (all the strategic partners except Nottingham) begun testing the R1 system in March. According to the latest CSC Alliance Penfield strategy, seen by EHI, it is scheduled to be ready for production by June 2008. Each site has to decide the date they go live up to 31 August

However, before deployment can take place, the strategic partners and CSC are due to hold a second review and consultation event at the end of April at West Bromwich Albion FC.

Earlier this week, CSC demonstrated the system to CfH staff. One NHS ‘partner’ told EHI that the demonstration was a sign of confidence in the product.

“The fact that CSC showed MPs the system last month and are now showing CfH staff the system just goes to show how high confidence in the system finally is. It seems odd to think that one year ago Mr Granger was ready to get CfH involved to rescue the ailing solution.”

The source added: “The consultation event will mean all key stakeholders will finally get to see the solution and have input into what they think and what they want on the system. All parties will put together a final list of critical success factors, once met, the system will be ready to go-live and trusts will enter implementation phase. I believe it is ready to go-live”

The second NHS source told EHI “What we have been evaluating separately, and what the early adopter sites are now piloting, is the closest we could have got to ensuring the solution is fit for the NHS.”

He added that subject to the feedback provided being taken on board, the software should be ready to go live. “From what I’ve seen, it is fair to say the system is ready and will provide much needed innovation to the NHS in Northern England”.

The NHS ‘strategic partners’ are now beginning the process of evaluating R2, which is said to be double the size of release 1 and have 17 components, including core Patient Demographic Service (PDS) compatibility. CSC is understood to be planning for early adopter sites to be able to start evaluating the R2 software by October 2008.

CSCA said it could not confirm or talk about the Lorenzo deployments whilst they were in a contract reset. None of the trusts involved were prepared to comment on the record on the record due to legal reasons.