NHS 24 has delayed the deployment of its £27m patient contact and triage management system indefinitely, just weeks before going live with NHS 111.
The patient call management system, supplied by Capgemini, was due to be deployed last autumn in order to provide a better call handling and triaging service for Scotland's national health and self care advice service. However, it has been delayed after various issues were identified during tests.
The delay comes as the Scottish version of NHS 111, the non-emergency alternative to 999, is due to go live at the end of April. NHS 24 chief executive John Turner said that the delay would not impact on the service provided by the health advice line.
"In recent years, NHS 24 has been developing a programme to update our technology systems for the future. Our intention is to continue to develop the system with our suppliers and to deploy it when it is safe to do so,” he said.
“In the meantime, the current systems continue to work effectively in supporting the delivery of our services across Scotland, and people should not hesitate to contact the NHS 24 service if they need to."
NHS 24 awarded the first part of the contract, which in total is worth £27m over ten years, to French IT services and consultancy company Capgenimi in 2011 to deliver “clinical application and patient contact management capabilities”, as part of the advice service’s new IT infrastructure programme.
BT won the second part of the contract and provides the infrastructure and managed services.
The news of the delay comes soon before Scotland is due to switch over from its 0845 number to NHS 111, the deployment of which in England has faced significant problems since its launch in Easter 2013 and contributed to the closure of NHS Direct.
NHS 24’s deployment of the 111 service comes almost exactly a year after it launched in England.
A spokeswoman from Scottish Government, which has worked closely with NHS24 on its deployment, said that the IT system delay would have no impact on the NHS 111 launch.
“This will have no impact on the new 111 number, which will be launched by the end of April,” she said.
NHS 24, which also provides telehealth and telecare services, launched 10 years ago and handles around 1.5m calls from patients every year.
The advice helpline has borrowed more than £20m from Scottish Government in the last two financial years in order to cover the investment of the new system.
The Scottish Government spokeswoman it is working with NHS 24 to resolve the “challenges associated with implementation.”
“We have provided brokerage to NHS 24 to help avoid additional financing charges associated with the phased implementation costs across the 10 year contract term,” said the spokeswoman.
“However, while these issues are being resolved the existing systems and arrangements will continue to operate, and there will be no impact on the safe and effective service offered by NHS 24 to patients across Scotland.”
EHI has contacted Capgemini, but has yet to receive a response. BT declined to comment on the delays.