Trusts are hoping for an announcement soon on whether they or central government will bear the cost of exiting National Programme for IT contracts.

EHI understands that a ‘principles paper’ has been prepared that looks at the various options for paying the exit costs associated with NPfIT.

These include penalty payments associated with exiting contracts before the official transition period as well as data migration. The government is also reportedly considering a six-month extension of the contracts.

The paper is being discussed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre and relevant ministers at the Department of Health, with trusts hoping for a decision within weeks.

However, EHI understands that ministers are reluctant to make an announcement because of recent bad press around the costs and lack of benefits associated with NPfIT.

Trusts with systems delivered by BT in London and the south of England have two years to choose a new supplier, sign contracts and migrate to new systems.

The official transition period runs from October 2014 – October 2015, but some trusts want to exit earlier, triggering penalty payments.

Those close to the programme say early exits will be necessary to allow for a smooth transition because of the large number of trusts involved. There are 33 community and mental health organisations running CSE’s RiO and 16 acute trusts in London and the South on Cerner Millennium, under national contracts.

EHI understands that the government is also considering paying for an extension of the contracts from October 2015 to the end of the financial year in April 2016, to allow all trusts to exit in time.

The costs of doing this would be significant as running the London Programme for IT alone for six months costs in the region of £45m.

There is apparently provision within NPfIT contracts for the DH to pay for one data migration when trusts switch systems, but they will need more than one and what the cost will be and who will pay is undecided.

The lack of clarity from government around these issues is reportedly holding up new contract signings between suppliers and trusts looking to move off their national contracts.

One source told EHI trusts have already been waiting for months and pressure is building for a decision.

Many are presenting business cases for new systems to their boards and need clarity of costs before getting approval.

Once the first trust goes through the exit process with the HSCIC, the magnitude of costs will become clearer for all involved. The HSCIC manages all of the national contracts between the DH and local service providers.

Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust received Cerner Millennium under NPfIT in December 2007.

Director of health informatics Malcolm Senior said Musgrove Park Hospital is looking at possible solutions for when its NPfIT contract expires.

“We are aware that there are discussions happening nationally around funding the cost of changing systems and, like other NHS trusts, are awaiting a formal announcement.

“Whatever the outcome of those discussions we have plans in place to ensure that any new system we procure will be ready to use before the end of this national contract.”

Head of IT at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – part of which also received Millennium in 2007 – Andy Thomas, told EHI the trust does not yet have any clarity on what its exit costs will be. He hoped to get an answer within the next few months.