About a week and half ago, the UK National Audit Office (NAO) released a review of the progress made since 2006 on the National Health Serviceâ''s (NHS) National Program for IT (NPfIT), its national electronic health record (EHR) program. The NAO concluded that while some aspects seemed to be working just fine (the N3 broadband network and data spine, the Choose and Book appointment booking service, a Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS) digital x-ray scheme and an electronic prescription service have been deployed on schedule, if not exactly working perfectly), the Summary Care Records functionality will not be deployed until 2014-2015, some four years late. (It should be noted that the original schedule was 2006.)
However, the NHS confirmed in the past day that one of the major NPfIT suppliers, Fujitsu, was pulling out of its Â£896 million, 10-year contract to supply a Cerner-based EHR system to the south of England. The cost to Fujitsu is estimated to be at least Â£340 million.
When the NPfIT program was set up, the NHS took great pains in saying that it was going to be tough with suppliers. From news reports, NHS wanted changes in the scope of the contract without paying what Fujitsu's board thought was fair given the risks involved, so it decided to quit. Accenture too walked away from its Â£2 billion NPfIT contract in 2006 for some of the same reasons.
I suspect the pull-out by Fujitsu is not only likely to push the NPfIT program schedule back past the 2014-15 time frame, but probably end up costing the NHS more than if it had paid Fujitsu what it wanted.