MP Richard Bacon has written to Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to bring the Cabinet Office into negotiations over the future of CSC’s deal for the North, Midlands and East of England.
Bacon is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and a long-standing critic of the programme.
Last year, he triggered a National Audit Office investigation into the revised LSP deals that have been signed with BT for London and the trusts live with Cerner Millennium and RiO in the South of England.
In his letter to Cameron, which has been seen by eHealth Insider, he says he wants the Cabinet Office involved in the NME negotiations because he is concerned that NHS Connecting for Health is overly committed to getting a new LSP deal.
The Cabinet Office’s efficiency and reform group, led by minister Francis Maude, has been looking at IT across government and the public sector.
It recently issued a strategy that criticised big and long-running IT programmes with large contracts, and called instead for a focus on smaller projects with contracts that could go to more innovative enterprises.
Although the Department of Health has said that it is considering "all options", including termination of the CSC contract following a series of missed deadlines for deploying iSoft’s Lorenzo software at key trusts, Bacon belives it is worried about legal action from the firm if it fails to win a new deal.
However, he argues in his letter that the Cabinet Office’s approach should give any supplier wanting to work across government pause before taking on one part of it.
Specifically, he says: “It should give the LSPs pause for thought if any legal action they might take could put them in dispute with the entire UK public sector and not just the NHS.”
Intriguingly, he hints that “Fujitsu is taking a very constructive approach to its overall relationship with government” despite being in legal dispute with the Department of Health over its departure as LSP for the South of England two years ago.
Against this background, Bacon says: “I remain very concerned about CSC… CfH seems to remain committed to the delivery of systems through LSPs such as CSC that have been shown to be unreliable, subject to serious delays and, even after contract renegotiations, unreasonably expensive.”
Bacon’s letter hints that CSC has offered to extend its NME contract and offer trusts a choice of systems. It also indicates that the DH apparently believes that 80 trusts in the region want national programme systems, based on data returns that Bacon has questioned as a result of work by EHI.
Even if the outcome of the negotiations was a choice of system for a reduced number of trusts, Bacon argues this would be a bad deal for the NHS because CSC is “expensive” and such a move would work against the return to a free market outlined by the Cabinet Office and health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Bacon argues that the situation will not be helped by CSC’s purchase of iSoft, because this would make it a monopoly provider in the region.
CSC was contracted to deliver Lorenzo system to the NME, following the departure of Accenture, which was originally LSP to some of the area.
It has been struggling to get the latest version of the system installed at a number of early adopters, including University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which has reported many problems with the system.
Bacon sums up the situation as: “The NHS has spent tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds of its own money on Lorenzo, trying to install the frankly uninstallable.”
He therefore says CSC and BT must be made to compete in an open healthcare market and urges Cameron to “use your good offices to ensure a sensible outcome to the contract negotiation with CSC.”