BT and CSC’s NHS deals ‘under threat’ from Conservatives

BT and CSC’s multibillion pound dealson the NHS National Programme for IT would be at risk of being downsized dramatically if a Conservative government won the next general election, according to analyst house Ovum.

Two days ago, both suppliers insisted to Computerworld UK that they were “committed” to their work creating electronic patient records under the £12.7 billion programme, after the NHS demanded that by November they prove the systems can work in hospitals. BT is already said to have considered quitting the programme, ahead of large writedowns it is expected to make in May.

David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party, warned that if he became prime minister, he would cancel the four-year late patient administration systems. Speaking at the Conservative spring forum in Cheltenham, he said: “The days of easy money are over, and we have no option but to weed out spending that is not essential.”

Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable said that if the Liberal Democrats got into power, they would also scrap the programme.

“A change of government is now a real threat to suppliers of the NHS’ National Programme, particularly those delivering electronic patient records,” said Tola Sargeant, principal analyst at Ovum.

Cameron is now advocating the use of personal health records, where people store their own health record online, rather than the NHS storing it on a central spine of patient data. “This will no doubt be music to the ears of PHR platform providers such as Microsoft (which has HealthVault) and Google (which has Google Health),” Sargeant said.

But Sargeant said she was “not convinced” that PHRs would offer large savings as the programme was already more localised. They were also unlikely to be practical, she said, because doctors “would still need” a central system to record clinical notes on patients.

“NHS Trusts would need to invest in electronic patient records to digitise their medical records whether or not there was a national programme for their rollout,” she said. “Moreover, the bulk of the work to enable the sharing of basic patient data on a national basis – through the creation of the ‘data spine’ by BT and its partners – is already complete.”

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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