The Department of Health’s chief information officer, Christine Connelly, has said she wants the formal procurement process for systems in the South to begin in January and to be complete by the beginning of April 2010.

According to multiple sources, Connelly announced the timescales in a speech at the Additional Supply Capability and Capacity (ASCC) market awareness event held by the DH in Westminster yesterday.

She said the formal process for procurement in the South will go-ahead in early January and, if possible, finish by the end of the fiscal year with deployments to follow over the coming months.

In a ten minute speech, which was followed by an extensive Q&A session, Connelly said that the ASCC event was important because delegates were predominately those with a genuine interest in systems with a view to procure.

Earlier this month, Connelly sent out a letter inviting suppliers on the ASCC framework, which was compiled in May 2008, to attend the event.

She said it was “essential to inform demand and improve market awareness of the clinical applications that are available in the communities, child health and acute sectors in advance of a series of procurements.”

Following the awareness day, Connelly said the plan is to run joint or collaborative procurements, involving groups of trusts seeking the same product or solution.

According to a spokesman from NHS Connecting for Health, who spoke to E-Health Insider outside the event from which the press was excluded, around 180 NHS IT staff and 40 suppliers turned up.

The spokesman said there had been an “alarm signal” that highlighted the need to run the awareness day because “not everybody knows everything about what is available to them.”

The majority of the suppliers outside the event were generally positive about the interest they were receiving from “people who know what that are looking for.”

Sean Riddell, managing director of EMIS, told EHI: “The event is about awareness for the whole market around what is happening, but it’s also about co-operation with competitors because that’s the direction where it is all heading.

“All of these events take a step forward by allowing the service to see products that are out there. It’s not just about the product, though, it’s about the roadmap. There’s always a gap between what a procurement may describe in an OBS [output based specification] and what clinicians on the ground want.”

However, several suppliers raised concerns about the speed with which the event was put together and the lack of clinicians attending.

A well known supplier of electronic patient record systems said: “the event is just box ticking from a CfH point of view, although the suppliers are very serious.”

Richard Moxon, sales director for Oasis Medical Solutions, said: “There’s a lot of trust based staff so far. Clinicians haven’t been heavily involved, which is interesting as the whole process is meant to be clinically led.”

However, he added: “We were in two minds about what to expect and whether it would be worth the effort, but in actual fact it has been.”

Andrew Spence, director of healthcare strategy for CSC, told EHI: “If I’m honest I would say we were sceptical about the event at first, but there has been consistent interest throughout the day.

"Most suppliers are taking it seriously and the NHS is genuinely making an effort to see what’s available. How important the event has been remains to be seen, and what happens next is critical.”

The CfH spokesman said there would be structured feedback from both the delegate and the supplier side to help decide the way forward.

The feedback with be collated from questionnaires given out at the event. These address issues such as whether it helped delegates with expressions of interest in a product and whether there are gaps in the market that need to be filled.

Link: NHS Connecting for Health