The Department of Health’s chief information officer, Christine Connelly, has spelled out the criteria against which progress on the delivery of the Lorenzo and Millennium care records systems will be judged.

This spring, Connelly said she wanted to see "significant" progress on the deployment of the ‘strategic’ systems in the acute sector by the end of November.

Evaluation of whether Millennium and Lorenzo have met the mark will take place from the end of this month, but deliberations by the DH and ministers on what action to take are likely to extend into 2010.

The four main criteria for both systems are: do the products exist? Are they robust and reliable? Have they been successfully deployed? And can they be deployed at scale?

In an exclusive interview with E-Health Insider last Friday, Connelly said: “In April I said I expect significant progress from suppliers by the end of November, so it’s valuable to publish the criteria.”

Connelly told EHI that it she did not think it was “appropriate” to offer an opinion on whether the two CRS products will measure up. She also declined to predict by when the evaluation will be completed and any subsequent actions announced.

She said the criteria were being published “in response to questions about how progress will be judged." Connelly said her team, together with strategic health authorities and trusts, will judge whether the criteria have been met.

During the interview, Connelly also said that a final decision on how to proceed would rest with the health secretary, indicating the DH is serious about the criteria being met.

In April, Connelly said she wanted to see Millennium deployed at another acute trust and Lorenzo deployed in ‘a care setting’ by November, with Lorenzo "working smoothly" across an acute trust by March.

The acute trust under the spotlight is University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, which gave Lorenzo a ‘soft landing’ at Furness General a year ago.

With the evaluation set to happen in November, the fifth test for Lorenzo will be whether this is “on track” to happen. The evaluation will be based on contract milestones such as training staff and dress rehearsals.

Explaining how the whole evaluation process will work, Connelly said: “If all the lights are on green it will be a short process. Similarly if all are red. But it’s more likely to be a mixture of different colour lights.”

Pushed on what outcome she expected to see, Connelly demurred: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to speculate on the colours of the lights we will have then. I am confident that we have the right criteria to evaluate, though.”

She predicted that considerable discussion will be required on which lights are must be green and which red lights are show-stoppers. “The discussion will be on whether something is nearly there.”

“We will take outcomes to National Programme Board, then the NHS Management Board and make our recommendations on what to do next. Ultimately it will be the Secretary of State who will need to take a view.”

Asked by when the evaluation will likely be completed and a course of action agreed, Connelly declined to be drawn: “I’m not going to say by when, there are too many variables. But its not gong to be the first of December.”

Instead she gave a clear indication the evaluation and deliberation process is likely to take time, stretching into 2010. “There is every possibility that people will ask for more information. This is a very big and complicated programme.”

The five success criteria published specifically relate to progress with the delivery of modules, criteria and milestones specified in LSP contracts.

Asked whether the DH will publish excerpts of the contracts to enable the evaluation process to be more open, Connelly said: “I don’t know, we generally don’t release elements of contracts as it’s not fair on suppliers. I’d have to speak to suppliers and get them to agree.

“But our intention is to be as open as we possibly can be here. We want to ensure we are involving all of the stakeholders in this process.”

The DH’s CIO acknowledged that six years into the multi-billion NPfIT it was less than ideal to be asking about the very existence of the main CRS products.

“The Public Accounts Committee said you should give suppliers a set amount of time to deliver. That’s what we are doing.”

However, Connelly said that in the case of iSoft she was not looking for alternative or existing products: “Lorenzo 1.9 is what we are asking for.” She also said the review "increases the chances of success."

The criteria were published in the same week that Connelly announced her intention to run a series of ASCC procurements in the South of England for clinical systems, beginning January.

Link: Department of Health publishes criteria for successful introduction of Electronic Patient Records