Christine Connelly has given the main suppliers to the National Programme for IT in the NHS seven months to demonstrate "significant progress" in delivering information systems to the acute sector.

In a keynote speech to the Healthcare Computing conference in Harrogate, the newly styled director general for informatics said “we will look at alternative approaches” if the November deadline is not met.

Her message was underlined by a DH statement, which said: "We will be working closely with the NHS and our current suppliers to improve the pace of delivery.

"If we don’t see significant progress by the end of November 2009, then we will move to a new plan for delivering informatics in healthcare." 

The target Connelly outlined would mean BT getting Cerner Millennium running in another London actue trust – probably Kingston – by the end of November.

It would also mean CSC getting the latest version of iSoft’s Lorenzo fully implemented in a care setting – not necessarily an acute trust – by November and "runnng smoothly" in an acute trust by March.

Connelly said she did not “want to talk very much” about what a new approach might involve but “at this point we are not ruling anything out.”

In the South of England, where Fujitsu exited the national programme nearly a year ago, she said the IT market was to be opened up "with a procurement process for hospitals that are not managed by BT."

As previously reported by E-Health Insider, this will use the Additional Supply Capability and Capacity framework, which was set up in 2007 to deliver extra resources to the national programme.

Despite the deadline put on delivery, the DH said that Connelly’s review of the national programme had confirmed that its "core aims around providing accessible and timely information to support patient care should be retained."

It also made clear that it wanted to retain the current procurement model, "which has ensured protection for the taxpayer by only paying suppliers on successful delivery of working systems." 

The DH flagged progress in somea reas of the programme, while admitting that "process in implementing electronic information systems in the acute sector has proved more challenging."

It said it was vital to get "greater pace" into these implementations; but it also wanted to "open up the healthcare IT market to new suppliers and new technological developments." To encourage innovation, it announced a new ‘app store’ style toolkit that will be in place by March next year.

Related audio

Podcast – Healthcare Computing 2009: voxpops (right click and ‘save target as’ to download)