Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has selected University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre as its preferred partner to deliver a new electronic patient record system.

The new Cerner system will be implemented outside of the National Programme for IT in the NHS, through a joint venture with UPMC that will develop new service delivery models at the foundation trust.

The trust declined to confirm that it had selected a preferred supplier. However, Nancy Landman, the chief information officer of UPMC, told E-Health Insider: “Yes, we have received notice that we are preferred vendor and are now in an Alcatel period.”

Alcatel is a period of at least ten calendar days following the notification of an award decision in a contract tendered via the Official Journal of the European Union, before the contract is signed with the successful supplier.

Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust follows a path first taken by Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which in April 2008 signed a similar deal with UPMC.

The Newcastle deal covered providing the trust with a Cerner Millennium EPR, including inpatient order entry, patient administration, pharmacy management, accident and emergency services and operating room systems.

In June 2008, the chairman of Royal Berkshire revealed that the trust was looking outside the national programme, to ensure it gets the IT systems required. The move was driven by lengthy delays in the NPfIT programme in the South, culminating in the exit of local service provider Fujitsu last May.

Speaking last May, trust chairman Colin MacLean said: “Plan A was to try to work with the national programme, Plan B was to start propping up our own IT systems and to continue working with the national programme, and just over six months ago we were made aware that we needed to start thinking about a Plan C to go out on our own.”

Legal advice taken by the trust and the local strategic health authority concluded that following the termination of Fujitsu’s LSP contract “there was no longer considered to be a Southern Connecting for Health Programme for IT and, therefore, no contract and no loss to the NHS should Trusts implement their own systems."

Trust board papers stated, “At the June Board meeting it was agreed, in principle, that the trust would invest in IT outside the national programme.

"The Trust had concluded that a Cerner solution would be the most appropriate way forward. However, Cerner did not wish to supply systems directly to the trust. Therefore, the only option available to the trust was to seek a strategic partner to supply, develop and implement the Cerner systems.”

As a result, in August the trust placed an advert in the Official Journal of the European Union for a new EPR system. The tender document specified the need for a full EPR system, over a seven year period, able to integrate with existing trust systems.

In February of this year, Royal Berkshire entered into an exclusive negotiation period with UPMC designed to progress “the strategic partnership” between the two.

Although the value of the Royal Berkshire contract is unknown, Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust recently awarded Meditech a contract for similar services and systems valued at £30-40m over ten years.

Trust board papers from Royal Berkshire show that contingency planning for delays to the NPfIT CRS were begun in January 2007, when the trust was also suffering significant delays. It had hoped to begin implementation by November 2007 at the latest.

In May BT, the LSP for London, was awarded a £500m contract extension for supporting eight existing Cerner sites in the South and putting the system into four more.

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