A £28m community and child health systems procurement is out to tender, and should lead to nine Southern trusts receiving one system as a managed service.

The procurement is for community providers covered by the Additional Supply Capability and Capacity procurement programme.

ASCC was meant to provide community and child health systems, infrastructure and systems for acute trusts, and IT for ambulance trusts that otherwise got nothing from the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

However, all three procurements collapsed late last year. At the time, the Department of Health said it would look to run an alternative.

The new tender gained Cabinet Office sign-off in March, but needed final government approval before being released.

Its release is a positive sign that the acute and ambulance procurements should follow on quickly, says procurement lead Tad Matus.

“We are very pleased that this key opportunity for south organisations is now progressing to conclusion,” he added.

“The approval process has enabled us to discuss many common issues that apply to the following South procurements, and we hope that these can now follow at some speed.”

Matus, who is chief information officer for NHS South East Coast, said the plan is to have contracts signed shortly after Christmas.

The trusts involved in the community and child health systems procurement are: Sussex Community; NHS Gloucestershire; NHS Bath and North East Somerset; Royal Cornwall Hospitals; Dorset HealthCare University; East Sussex Healthcare; NHS Plymouth; Kent Community; and NHS Swindon.

The tender notice, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, says the procurement is to select a single supplier to supply a managed service, including application software, hosting, deployment and support, to each of the NHS organisations under separate contracts.

“Each of the contracting authorities reserves the right to elect not to enter into a contract with the selected supplier at the end of the procurement,” it says.

“Each contract term will be four years with the possibility to extend this for up to two further periods of 18 months each.” The estimated value of up to nine contracts is £28m.

NHS Bath and North East Somerset and Wiltshire IM&T service director of IT Catherine Dampney said the organisation is excited and feels it is “into the home straight now for procurement.”

“As long as the DH and Cabinet Office don’t get cold feet later on this looks good,” she said.

“If it does work, and goes to contract award, it will set the precedent for future collaborative procurements. Rather than a top down proposal, each trust involved will have a direct say in the scope or requirements and selection of vendors.”

The procurement will be backed up by central funding as long as trusts “can demonstrate a robust value for money business case to support the investment,” the DH told EHI earlier in the process.

Dampney said the central funding is “quite key to making this a real transformational programme.”

“Effectively the organisations have a couple of years to realise the savings that will allow them to invest in the systems in the future,” she added.

“Without that, and in the current economic climate, I think a lot of community services would have not had the capacity to undertake this sort of investment.”

Suppliers must respond by 11 October.