BT will now be paid £1 billion to deliver the NHS data spine, following a contract re-set earlier this year. Health minister Ben Bradshaw revealed the new figure in a commons written answer, published at the start of the month.

The spine contract was originally worth £620m. However, Mr Bradshaw insisted that the increased cost reflected “changes and additional requirements” and that they had been negotiated through “normal governance procedures.”

NHS Connecting for Health has indicated that the changes and requirements include new functionality to support policy objectives, such as the 18 week waiting time target, and “wider NHS work and requirements.” A separate contract reset means that BT will also earn more than £1 billion as local service provider for London.

In a series of responses to detailed questions from opposition MPs, Mr Bradshaw also indicated that there is a cap on the amount of money that former local service provider for the South, Fujitsu, may be able to claim in compensation, following the termination of its contract in May.

The company has issued a procedure initiation notice to CfH as a first step to resolving outstanding contract issues. Newspaper reports indicated that it might be looking to claim £700 million. But Mr Bradshaw told MPs that: “The contract, which was reset in September 2005, provides for caps of liability.

“Fujitsu’s liability to the Department is capped at £100 million per contract year, and to an aggregate total of £500 million. The Department’s liability is capped at £50 million per contract year. In both cases, the liabilities have potential to apply from the last contract reset.”

In response to a further question from Conservative MP Stephen O’Brien, the minister added that he could not quantify the delays that were likely to arise from Fujitsu’s departure.

However, he said: “It is possible that some services, such as systems to support mental health and community health services, may in the event be delivered more quickly than was originally anticipated through existing contracts with other suppliers.”

In other responses, Mr Bradshaw confirmed that Release 1 of the iSOFT’s Lorenzo software was delivered to the NHS in May this year. E-Health Insider reported last week that podiatrists at South Birmingham Primary Care Trust had been the first to use the new system earlier this month.

However, a much bigger deployment is due at Morecambe Bay NHS Trust. Although a number of go-live dates have slipped, EHI understands that CfH is confident the system will go-live this autumn; once trusts managers are satisfied with it.


Ben Bradshaw’s written replies