D-Day has arrived for University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust on whether it is allowed to proceed with plans to become the first acute hospital to take the delayed Lorenzo hospital information system.

Department of Health chief information officer Christine Connelly is due to decide today whether to give the trust her approval to go-live with the iSoft system.

E-Health Insider under understands that Connelly will today personally visit the hospital trust, the latest in a series of visits.

All the indications are that both National Programme for IT in the NHS prime contractor CSC and the trust are keen to proceed with a go-live next weekend; the second May bank holiday. 

EHI has been told that the trust and CSC both wanted to go-live at the beginning of May, but this was deemed too political by the DH because of the general election campaign.

EHI also understands that the final dress rehearsal last weekend went well, with one source saying the exercise, while not perfect, “went better than expected”.

The issue that the DH CIO must now grapple with is whether she gives the approval wanted by the trust for the long-awaited implementation.

After the vast amount of effort it has put in, the trust is understandably keen to proceed. CSC is also understandably keen. But the DH CIO’s position is more complicated.

For a start, there remains no agreement on the "remediation plan" for what comes next, given that CSC missed an end of March go-live target. 

If she gives the go-ahead, and the implementation succeeds, Connelly almost certainly triggers very large milestone payments to CSC; running into tens of millions of pounds. 

Given the new government’s accusations of its predecessor’s profligacy, large payments to a ‘failing’ IT supplier are unlikely to be well received by the new minister.

There is a big question mark over whether the new, Conservative-led coalition government will agree a new £3 billion deal with CSC, that provides only £300-400m savings for a significantly descoped product delivered to far fewer trusts.

Andrew Lansley, the new Secretary of State for Health, has made clear he aims to axe the LSP deals.

Speaking to EHI in December, Lansley said: “It is time for the government to abandon the flawed local service provider contracts” that were awarded to CSC and BT to implement electronic patient records across the country.

He added: “Whilst the contracts remain shrouded in ‘commercial confidentiality’, we suspect that it would now be possible to abandon them without penalties in either direction, because the costs of fulfilling the contracts to the companies would exceed the value of the contracts to them.”

The dilemma now facing Connelly is whether she allows an implementation to proceed or seeks to anticipate her new political master’s policy.

The clock is against her. Given the training and resources necessary for a big bang implementation, Morecambe Bay will need her decision today if it to proceed next weekend.

Small wonder then that sources say Connelly has been taking soundings from within the NHS and is seeking to share the decision.


LSP contracts may be abandoned