Original text from business.guardian.co.uk
One of the most important pieces of software in the NHS's £6.2bn IT overhaul - which is being developed by iSoft - may miss its already delayed release dates, according to a review by the two consultancies responsible for delivering the systems.
In iSoft's annual report last year, the troubled developer said the programme, known as Lorenzo, was already "on the market" and had been "available" from early 2004.
In January this year, however, it issued a profits warning saying the NHS's National Programme for IT "had been experiencing a significant degree of rescheduling ... as a result, it is now clear that delivery of iSoft application solutions to NHS trusts will occur, in general, later than previously expected". No revised delivery date was given, and the company did not mention progress on Lorenzo.
A month after the profits warning, Accenture and Computer Services Corporation (CSC), iSoft's partners on three NHS contracts covering 60% of Britain, produced their own review of Lorenzo's "deliverability and fitness for purpose".
The review, seen by the Guardian, is highly critical of the Lorenzo software development and iSoft's expectations of a likely release date. Beyond a basic version of Lorenzo, which has been tailored for GPs, the review found "there is no well defined scope and therefore no believable plan for releases".
Last night a spokesman for iSoft said: "The Lorenzo solution is broad and far- reaching, and elements are in the process of being implemented ... we will be providing an update in our full-year results."
ISoft had sent the review's authors a series of release dates for different versions of Lorenzo and said the final, fully functional version would not be available until the second quarter of 2008.
"These releases must be viewed as 'indicative' at best and are likely to be highly optimistic," the report concluded. No Lorenzo system has been installed in the UK, and iSoft has been working on an interim version, which largely involves a repackaging of older software.
Last year, iSoft's then chief executive, Tim Whiston, told shareholders that "Lorenzo has achieved significant acclaim from healthcare providers, analysts and the leading technology organisations".
The Accenture and CSC review took a different view from that of Mr Whiston, who quit iSoft two months ago. It labelled 13 out of 39 matters relating to Lorenzo "red", meaning they raised issues requiring immediate work.
Among the areas of acute concern was about iSoft's ability to plan and estimate how long the development process would take and its confusing "progress management". Even "clinical safety" was labelled red by the reviewers.
Most seriously, however, the Lorenzo review found "no evidence for the development, nor testing of, technical procedures that would be required for operation and maintenance of the live system ... this is the main risk to the successful delivery of a fit-for-purpose solution."
This month, iSoft confirmed its auditor, Deloitte, had found accounting irregularities for the 2004 and 2005 financial years. Steve Graham, one of the group's founders, was suspended as commercial director and iSoft said "other employees", who had since left the company, may also have been involved. A "more formal" investigation has been started.
The Guardian recently reported that Connecting for Health, the NHS IT procurement department, had made an up-front payment to iSoft in 2005, days before the company's year-end. ISoft confirmed at least some of this payment was booked in the accounts for that year.
Following irregular accounting revelations, iSoft has delayed its 2006 results and adopted a far more conservative accounting policy. Its figures must be filed by Thursday and are expected to be accompanied by news of Lorenzo's progress.
Connecting for Health expects Lorenzo to be deployed by 60% of Britain's GPs and hospitals. It is believed to be one of the largest IT projects in the world, with Lorenzo alone to be used by about 600,000 clinicians and managers looking after up to 30 million patients.
Last month, basic administrative computer systems at about 90 NHS trusts, including at least eight acute trusts, failed for about four days. They included iSoft software provided predominantly by CSC. Connecting for Health said the disruption followed a power cut at a CSC central data centre, adding that a standby disaster recovery unit had failed to provide a back-up.