An announcement is due next week on what clinical systems suppliers have made it through to the shortlist of the Additional Supply Capability and Capacity (ASCC) procurement run by NHS Connecting for Health.

The DH IT agency told E-Health Insider “the shortlist is being completed and finalised now, with a formal announcement to be made early next week on the lot two suppliers list”.

Last week suppliers who had been notified they had made it onto the final shortlist said they were legally unable to speak publically, but a number confirmed in private to EHI that they had made the cut.

Each supplier spoken to said the framework contract would mean their products and services would now be available to the NHS nationally. None, however, appeared clear on whether this would involve any CfH funding or would be solely down to local NHS organisations.

The announcement of the crucial lot two category will come more than a year after the ASCC procurement began. Yet despite the time taken there is still being no indication of whether the procurement will actually be backed by central DH or CfH funds.

Last August the government described by the ASCC procurement as providing ‘contingency’ to the current chosen CfH suppliers. It has never been made clear how ASCC can be reconciled with the exclusive local service provider contracts awarded. The framework deal has at various times been described as the ‘plan B CfH never planned to use’.

Despite the continued uncertainty from NHS organisations and suppliers on how and if ASCC will ever be used, many suppliers have seen the procurement as one they are unable to ignore. This has been particularly true for the majority of suppliers who are currently outside the core NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT) contracts.

The original tender for ASCC was issued by CfH at the end of March 2007 when the DH IT agency said it was looking for additional capability and suppliers able to plug gaps in the CfH line-up.

The long list of 116 suppliers – split between 34 national suppliers and 82 small and medium enterprise – was published in August 2007.

Divided into four lots: lot one covers non-clinical ICT; lot two is for specific clinical information technology services; lot three is for a broad range of hardware, infrastructure and related services; lot four covers testing environments and related services.

The chosen suppliers for lots one, three and four were announced in January of this year, with lot two delayed.

Lot two of ASCC has consistently attracted the most interest because it covers just about every aspect of clinical IT, ranging from patient administration systems, GP surgery services, document management, digital imaging, dental, social care interfacing, community service, prison, diagnostic systems, urgent care systems and e-prescribing systems.

Other systems listed include pharmacy and stock control, order and results management, integrated care pathway and care planning, theatres, maternity, ambulances, accident and emergency, decision support, national service frameworks, screening and surveillance, child health services, health care professionals services, identity management services, renal services, oncology services, hospice services and ophthalmology.

In its response to the public accounts committee report on the NHS IT programme the treasury said of ASCC: “The intention is to award a series of framework contracts to selected suppliers who can then compete for subsequent business if the need arises… these would be complementary to the existing suite of programme contracts and provide contingency.”