The Prime Minister has said that no changes will be made to CSC’s deal under the National Programme for IT in the NHS until the National Audit Office completes its latest investigation into the programme.
Responding to a question from MP Richard Bacon at today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said he was making no plans to sign any new contracts, or to terminate some or all of the existing contract with CSC, until the NAO reports.
However, this may not significantly hold up a new deal for the local service provider for the North, Midlands and East of England, since the NAO is due to make its report next Wednesday.
Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and a persistent critic of the national programme, triggered the investigation by asking questions about the value for money of the revised LSP deals signed with BT for London and parts of the South of England.
His question today was part of an attempt to ensure scrutiny of any new deal for the NME, where CSC has missed a series of targets to deploy iSoft’s Lorenzo electronic patient record software.
Although the last of four ‘early adopter’ sites, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, pulled out of taking the software last month, CSC recently told the stockmarket that it was confident of getting a new memorandum of understanding within weeks.
The MOU is likely to see the company asked to deliver a cut-down version of Lorenzo to fewer trusts, with more flexibility for trusts to decide whether to take the system or not.
Bacon has written to Cameron, urging him to get the Cabinet Office and its minister, Francis Maude, involved in negotiations, arguing that it will be in a better position to negotiate with CSC because of its cross-government reach.
Today’s question asked the Prime Minister: “What discussions he has had with the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Secretary of State for Health on the performance of Computer Sciences Corporation in installing Lorenzo software within the National Programme for IT in the NHS.”
In response, Cameron said contract changes would not be made until the NAO reports and the PAC holds a meeting on its report.
He also gave some general figures about the programme, saying the present government had cut £1.3 billion from what was once a £12.7 billion project, with £500m coming from CSC. He said £4.7 billion remained unspent.
Responding to PMQs, Bacon told eHealth Insider: “I am very pleased that the Prime Minister stated that no new agreement will be concluded before the NAO report is published and the PAC has had the opportunity to consider it.
"It sounded very much as if all options are now on the table. I understand that the review is probably going to be quite critical of the national programme.
"For some years the national programme has been in a state of denial. It’s quite obvious that Lorenzo has failed. It’s not going to succeed. The reason why there has been so little activity is that there is nothing worth installing."
Bacon added that he continued to hope the NAO report would "trigger a fundamental rethink."
He also said that any attempts to save the programme would be "futile", arguing there had been "promises after promises" for many years that things would improve. “It is in the interest of taxpayers and patients that we move on,” he concluded.
The NAO website says its latest report will look at “what progress has been made since the last NAO report in 2008 in terms of deployments and functionality delivered, and at what cost.”
The report will be published next Wednesday, 18 May. The Public Accounts Committee will take evidence on the report on 23 May.