Original text from The Gardian
NHS bosses may not appoint a replacement for Fujitsu as one of three regional contractors leading the health service's troubled £12.7bn IT systems overhaul following the Japanese firm's decision this week to walk away.
This is being called for by disaffected trusts across the south of England who want to pick their own suppliers.
It would be a big blow for BT which had been seen as favourite to replace Fujitsu because it is already lead contractor for the neighbouring London region and is deploying the same software package, Cerner Millennium.
BT has said it wants the Fujitsu contract, but many medics and IT workers within the NHS remain deeply sceptical about the suitability of Millennium, a US product, for Britain's hospitals.
NHS Connecting for Health, the body which oversees the National Programme for IT, was last night weighing up whether to go with BT or to allow trusts to select their own suppliers.
Deliberations follow the decision last year to quietly build a list of accredited alternative software suppliers as a contingency measure. The moved was prompted by concern that the National Programme - designed to replace the NHS's creaking paper records system across England within 10 years - was unravelling. Months earlier consultancy firm Accenture had walked away from two £1bn regional contracts, leaving just Fujitsu, BT and CSC as lead contractors deploying the core systems.
The departure this week of Fujitsu, and continuing concern about core software packages Millennium and Lorenzo, has made it more likely these alternative suppliers will be called upon.
A report this month by the National Audit Office revealed that just 13 Millennium systems had been deployed in acute trusts, nine of them in the southern region. In several cases trusts have withheld payment, something they are only supposed to if systems are not working properly.
The Lorenzo software package, earmarked by CSC for the Midlands and the north of England, remains in development phase. It was originally supposed to start being rolled out in trusts from April 2004, but the development schedule has slipped repeatedly. Early versions of Lorenzo are now promised to go live in some hospitals this summer, but many experts believe that deadline will also be missed.
Despite its considerable success building an IT "spine" and network designed to link National Programme systems across the country, BT has had a mixed track record running the care records services contract for London. By the end of March it had deployed just four patient administration systems in acute hospital trusts out of 32 in total.
Last month it added Barts to the list, but this deployment is already believed to be suffering serious data collection and reporting problems. A spokesperson for Barts last night denied there were serious concerns. "The system is largely working as intended and gradually becoming embedded into normal operations."
Proceeding without a lead contractor for the southern region would mark an end to the original vision of a centrally orchestrated programme - the largest non-military IT project in the world - which the NAO this month confirmed was already running at least four years late.
On Wednesday Fujitsu confirmed it was terminating a £1.1bn contract early to develop a computerised care records service 13 million people living in the southern region after 12 months of contract re-negotiations. The cost to the consultancy firm of pulling out has been estimated at £300m. Fujitsu is also believed to have racked up substantial legal bills after protracted wrangles both with Connecting for Health and with US software firm Cerner, the firm behind Millennium.
Further costly legal disputes are likely as Fujitsu and NHS bosses thrash out a settlement to cover the Japanese firm's exit. Fujitsu has already claimed some trusts have improperly withheld payments on deployments that have been completed. There is also likely to be a fight over the £143m of cash advanced to Fujitsu for work that has not been signed off. This is almost 40% of total NHS advance payments relating to the core contracts.
In a statement, Fujitsu said: "We have now taken the decision to withdraw from the National Programme contract re-set negotiations with Connecting for Health as we did not feel there was a prospect of an acceptable conclusion. The NHS has advised us that they intend to end the contract early by issuing a notice of termination."