by Tony Collins
NHS software supplier Cerner has written to Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust questioning a process to procure an electronic patient record system.
The Trust chose Epic and HP as preferred supplier for a common platform for the Cambridge trust and Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust.
Now Cerner, which bid for the contract, is asking for the process to be be re-run, says the Health Service Journal. The Trust told the Health Service Journal its procurement was open and fair.
The Health Service Journal said it had seen Cerner’s letter. It quoted the letter as saying that the Trust’s favouring of Epic was in clear breach of the ‘equal treatment’ principle.
The letter said that Cerner found it difficult not to conclude that the Trust had made a pre-determined decision to award the tender to Epic some time before it designed the procurement process. This gave other vendors no realistic possibility of winning, said the letter.
The trust said it was continuing to proceed with the procurement process for “eHospital”.
Cerner supplies the NHS with the Millennium software, either directly or through BT under the NPfIT.
Come on Cerner!!,
Stop wasting people’s time. As CIO for an FT about to go to Tender you are out of the window just for this behaviour.
Although I have little love for Cerner per se I can completely sympathise with their position. This article raises all sorts of questions and such a procurement is, in my opinion and unfortunately, no way unusual. Cerner can afford to enter into such a challenge process as they are big enough to weather the storm and bad publicity it would give rise to, the worse being the NHS grapevine along which many negative comments travel about ‘difficult’ suppliers. There are many instances of procurements entered into where the ‘winner’ is pre selected and the other participants are there to make up the numbers or drive the price down.
From a Trust’s perspective I can also see why they may act in this way. The National Programme For IT had a massive and detrimental effect on the UK Healthcare Software Industry. The number of possible suppliers was greatly reduced and for those that were left from within the programme the quality and value of what was supposed to be delivered was at best questionable. This has been the state of play for the last seven or so years. Fast forward to the present, NPfIT is moribund, far fewer suppliers around, tighter budgets and Trusts have a real need for information systems to meet their patients needs.
The procurement process, if followed blindly, does not mean a Trust will end up with the system it or its staff want. It simply means, having ticked all the boxes, they get X whatever X is. The procurement process is fundamentally flawed. What do any savvy NHS staff do with a flawed process? They flex it until it does for them what they want it to. The amount of money which is wasted in this manner would be far better spent by the NHS in other endeavours.
Let’s not forget that the one of the reasons for NPfIT was to streamline the procurement process. Now with the end of NPfIT the NHS simply reverts to the pre-NPfIT processes that were deemed not fit for purpose all those years ago. It’s no wonder this is happening and I suspect more suppliers would do the same if they felt able.