NHS chief information officer Christine Connelly is looking for a replacement mental health trust to take Lorenzo from CSC, the local service provider for the North, Midlands and East of England.

EHealth Insider reported exclusively last Friday that Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust had withdrawn from becoming the vital last ‘early adopter’ for the iSoft electronic patient record.

Now the Department of Health is looking for a replacement, despite its previous insistence that CSC had to deliver the latest version of the software to four NHS trusts by the end of March to unlock contract payment milestones, or risk of having its contract ended.

An internal CSC email, seen by EHI, states Pennine Care decided to withdraw because of a “lack of confidence in being able to deploy Lorenzo into live service in the near future."

With delivery of Lorenzo now six years late, CSC has been re-negotiations over its £3 billion LSP contract for the NME for more than a year.

In March 2010, CSC had to provide a remediation plan, which it has subsequently failed to deliver.

The plan, and so the negotiations, hinged on CSC delivering four beta sites: NHS Bury, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, and then Pennine Care.

In February, the DH said that because of a missed delivery date at Pennine Care it had notified CSC that it was in breach of contract and that it was considering terminating the firm’s contract. March was set as a final deadline for the trust to go-live with the system.

However, it now appears that CSC will be given yet another final chance. In a letter to MP Richard Bacon last week, Connelly described CSC’s lack of progress as “very disappointing” but said other mental health trusts were being approached.

“The failure of CSC to meet the Pennine Care planned go-live date was very disappointing, particularly given the assurances given to the Minister for the Cabinet Office when he and I met with CSC in December.

"Following extensive discussions, Pennine Care have agreed, with their strategic health authority, that they will no longer deploy Lorenzo and will be considering all available options to them.

“However, other trusts in the North Midlands and East are considering becoming the early adopter of Lorenzo mental health functionality and this is currently being explored further.”

An internal CSC email on Pennine’s decision to withdraw goes much further, indicating that the DH has already decided to stick with CSC.

The email from David Morris, Lorenzo product management and deployment services, CSC Alliance, says: “The Authority has clearly expressed an appetite for quickly moving beyond this and sustaining the momentum we’ve established.

"The ways in which this appetite is portrayed by individual people around the programme or outside the programme (eg the media) may lead some to question the Authority’s intent, but all stated communications suggest this latest challenge is one that will be jointly tackled by CSCA and the Authority.”

Bacon, a member of the Commons Public Accounts Committee who has closely followed the £12.7 billion NHS IT programme, told EHI: “Pennine’s withdrawal should be a body blow to CSC and iSoft.

"They were given a clear set of targets to meet by the Department of Health, including successful installation of the Lorenzo system at Pennine by March this year. They have clearly failed, yet again."

Bacon said he was amazed that the search was on for new trusts to take Lorenzo. “NHS Connecting for Health is supposed to help the NHS develop successful IT systems, not help to find new victims for these failed companies and their failed systems. Far from finding IT solutions, CfH are now deliberately developing new problems."

One EHI NHS reader from the North West posted a comment in support of Pennine’s decision: “In my opinion, Pennine have been diligent in their end user testing and, unlike other early adopters, have refused to deploy a product which in their view wasn’t fit for purpose.”

The EHI reader added: “Like the rest of us who stayed on the Lorenzo bus, they invested considerable time and money into trying to get this turkey to fly.”

Another EHI reader suggested CSC may finally be the one to abandon Lorenzo, if it completes its acquisition of iSoft. “If anyone calls time on Lorenzo I predict it will be CSC – since they now have some secondary care systems actually fit for deployment in their portfolio.”

The National Audit Office is due to publish its third report into the NHS IT programme this summer.

Read EHI’s editorial on where Pennine Care’s departure leaves the CSC negotiations.