The Department of Health has confirmed that the transition to a new electronic staff record system for the NHS in England and Wales will begin in June this year as part of a phased rollout to conclude in November.

IBM was named as the preferred supplier in December last year and last month the company confirmed it had signed a five-year contract.

It will now work with the NHS ESR Central Team to develop and implement a new ESR service for the 1.4 million members of staff in the NHS in England and Wales.

IBM replaces McKesson UK, which has handled the system for payroll and other human resources activities since 2001, when it was one of the first, big, national IT projects to be launched by the NHS.

Although McKesson retained its UK Workforce Solutions team when it sold most of its UK healthcare business in 2014, it said its future focus would be services and helping trusts to make the most of workforce data.   

According to the NHS ESR Central Team, the transition to IBM’s ESR will happen as part of two stage process, the first of which will be an interim step beginning on 1 June, 2015.

During this period IBM will take full responsibility for delivery of the ESR service, using most of the existing infrastructure that McKesson already has in place. There is no planned service downtime at this stage while any changes to infrastructure that has an impact on users will be “communicated in advance”.

The second stage of the transition will also begin in June and will see IBM gradually phase in its new infrastructure across the NHS, with a planned completion date of the end of November 2015.

In an FAQ posted on its website, the NHS ESR Central Team says the DH has “significantly invested and resourced the reprocurement and transition activities to minimise risk.”

Key advances in IBM’s system include the use of mobile technology that will allow people to access ESR services using Android and iOS devices, as well as new self-service capabilities.

IBM’s system also meets several requirements of a new ESR service mentioned in am NHS ESR newsletter from spring 2014

These include an enhanced user interface that allows integrations with social media and web conferencing and improved provision for the detailed checking of payroll outputs, such as online payslips.

IBM also says it has further enhancements planned for down the line including the use of dashboards and alerts to support central business intelligence reporting.

Simon Humberstone, head of healthcare for Europe at IBM Global Business Services said in a statement: “By introducing technologies that will further enable the NHS to expand its data analytics capabilities, alongside the latest online collaboration and social learning tools, knowledge will be more easily shared, clinical outcomes improved and performance levels increased.” 

The tender, which also considered Steria and CSC, indicated the implementation of a new service was worth £200 million to £400 million.