The NHS chief executive leading the Southern Programme for IT has said that plans for new Additional Supply Capability and Capacity (ASCC) procurements remain on track.

Candy Morris, chief executive of NHS South East Coast, wrote to strategic health authority and trust chief executives this week.

Her letter says: “Contrary to inaccurate reports in the media, it is still the intention to progress with community and child health, ambulance, and [her emphasis] acute systems, albeit with some changes to the approach…”

Morris says that, subject to the necessary approvals, the three ASCC procurements that have been on ice since April will be revived. For acute trusts in the South, the initial focus will be on e-prescribing and order communications.

On 4 August, E-Health Insider reported that trusts had been told informally that they were unlikely to receive central funding for acute ASCC procurements.

In her 23 August letter, Morris says that central funding remains subject to receiving “formal feedback” from the cross-government Major Programmes Review and any subsequent approval processes being completed.

She advises that the business case for community and child health systems led by Tad Matus, chief information officer for NHS South East, and the case for ambulance systems led by Bill McAvoy, chief information officer for NHS South Central, “are ready for approval when formal Major Programmes Review feedback is received, enabling procurements to recommence."

Outline business case and solution requirements for acute trusts are being developed “based on trust priorities."

“The tranche 1 requirements covering e-prescribing and order communications have been signed off by the ASCC South Acute Steering Group,” reports Morris. “Work on Integration and the tranche 2 requirements for PAS, clinical documents and scheduling solutions continue.”

Sources say that the situation remains in flux, with no final decision yet taken between the Treasury, Cabinet Office or Department of Health. Nor is a final decision likely ahead of the completion of this October’s public sector spending review, which will institute major cuts across the public sector.

However, the same sources indicate that there is, for the time being at least, a concerted effort to “breathe life back into ASCC."

The latest idea is apparently that community and child health and ambulance systems will be funded, while a procurement for acute capabilities will be part funded.

Morris also reports that the seven Southern trusts live with Cerner Millennium are all planning to take advantage of the ‘LC1’ functional upgrade, “which delivers a range of clinical and operational benefits, such as the delivery of order communications and a foundation for future investments.”

Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust, has completed local testing of the first technical upgrade stage, as has the South’s Cerner domain 1, covering Milton Keynes NHS Foundation Trust, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust and Buckinghamshire Hospitals Trust.

On the three ‘greenfield’ Cerner sites, Morris reports that “the programme is underway." Royal United Hospital Bath NHS Trust and North Bristol NHS Trust have concluded their ‘engage’ phase, and now moving to ‘configure’, with Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust following slightly behind.

Morris’s letter also stresses that in community and mental health strong progress continues. Seventeen out of the 25 contracted trusts are live with RiO and all 17 of them successfully upgraded to Release 5.4 in August.

“To date there are 11 mental health, five community health and one child health system/s live,” says her letter. The latest site to go live is Ridgeway and Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust. Next up is Solent Healthcare, due in September.

Morris also advises that success of the RiO programme has been recognised. “The London and South Programmes for IT have been named as finalists in this year’s e-Health Insider Awards, for ‘Excellence in Major Healthcare IT Development’.”

The awards will be presented on Wednesday, 6 October in the Grand Hall at the Grand Connaught Rooms, Covent Garden, London. For more information or to reserve a table, please visit the awards website.

To find out more about the previous winners of the awards, visit our case studies showcase. Last year’s Healthcare ICT Champion of the Year, Andy Inniss, is now an EHI video diarist.