The NHS’s £12.7 billion Connecting for Health scheme suffered another setback today when it was announced that they had fired Fujitsu - the Japanese IT firm who were one of the project’s most important suppliers.
This news will anger critics of Connecting for Health, who have already slated the project for being too costly, as well as four years late. However, the government defended the costs associated with its scheme and insisted that Connecting for Health could potentially produce more than £1bn in savings by 2014.
Connecting For Health is comprised of four main projects. These include a the provision of a centralised electronic medical record system that will contain the details of 50 million patients, an online ‘choose and book’ system that will allow people to choose and book their own hospital appointments digitally and an electronic prescriptions service, as well as fast network links between NHS organisations, which will link more than 30,000 GP Practices in England to nearly 300 UK hospitals.
The 10-year Fujitsu contract was worth a massive £896 million and gave the company responsibility for installing IT equipment in NHS hospitals throughout the south of England. The NHS decided to terminate its contract with Fujitsu after 10 months of renegotiations broke down.
The renegotiations were marred by increasing tensions between Connecting for Health and their IT suppliers, which were caused by tough contracts that were put in place to stop costs from spiralling out of control. However, a Fujitsu official told the Financial Times that these contracts demanded too much from them and this is why they could not reach an agreement. It’s estimated that the termination of this contract will cost Fujitsu around £300 million.
Fujitsu is not the first company to leave Connecting for Health. In 2006, Accenture, which was responsible for providing IT services to the north and north east of England, decided to quit key parts of the NHS programme.
A spokeswoman for Connecting for Health expressed regret at losing Fujitsu. She said: "Regrettably, and despite [the] best efforts by all parties, it has not been possible to reach an agreement on the core Fujitsu contract that is acceptable to all parties. The NHS will therefore end the contract early by issuing a termination notice. Work has started immediately on planning the necessary arrangements."
Stephen O'Brien, the Conservative shadow health minister, said that the loss of Fujitsu signified the government's unsuccessful attempts to "ram through a top-down, centralised, one size fits all NHS supercomputer system." He said that the project was also promising to be an immense waste of public money. He said: "This is £12.7bn of taxpayers' money now at risk, and the intended result is already four years behind."