By Tony Collins
MPs are criticising offers to hospitals under which they install the CSC Lorenzo system under the National Programme for IT in return for cash incentives, said The Times yesterday.
The Times’ headline was “Hospitals offered cash to take ‘cowboy’ IT system”, a reference to criticism by Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee after the commitee published a report on the National Programme for IT.
The paper said that CSC will pay hospitals millions of pounds in “signing-on” fees to use the Lorenzo patient administration system, which was developed under the NPfIT.
Graham Frost, sales director for CSC health, is quoted as saying to eHealth Insider that the company has had a “huge rush of trusts enquiring about the incentive fund” and was expecting 24 to sign up. They could “call on this kitty for initial expenses”.
Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee who has made a plethora of disclosures on failures of the NPfIT, was quoted by The Times as saying that if hospitals came to him for advice he would urge them not to take the system.
Hodge was quoted as saying: “If this is true, it’s a mind-boggling waste. I just cannot believe the NHS is bribing trusts to take on an IT system which is known to have problems at a time when they are struggling to reduce their budgets.”
The Department of Health says: “We have made some central funding available for trusts implementing Lorenzo to help cover the costs”. The funding depends on a robust business case, said the department’s spokesperson.
So much for the dismantling of the NPfIT. In reality the Department of Health is using its influence and financial power to drag the wagon of the national programme along on its bare axles. It has from the start.
If CSC can afford t0 pay large cash incentives to trusts and still make money from its installations one wonders if, even with cuts on the NPfIT budgets, there is still too money left in the programme. The incentives give CSC an advantage over SMEs in a market that is supposed to be fair and balanced.
The Department of Health should be doing its best to ensure fair and open competition in the NHS – not tipping the scales in favour of one supplier.
Is the NPfIT still doing damage within the NHS – and to taxpayers?
Thank you to Dave Orr for alerting me to the article in The Times