08 May 2003 | Robin Parker
A £250 million IT project linking electronic patients' records at 12 hospitals in the Midlands has been axed by the government because it fails to conform to a national scheme.
The Department of Health (DoH) warned that other similar local projects could be cancelled to bring them in line with the NHS IT programme.
The lead trust in the Blackberd project, the Birmingham and the Black Country Strategic Health Authority, was told it would not get national funding if it continued to run procurement outside the £5 billion national NHS IT programme.
The trust's purchasers began the procurement of systems in October last year, and suppliers were awaiting further details of the specification.
Electronic patient records are a central part of the national programme, and the needs of the trusts involved in the Blackberd project will come under its scope.
Under the programme, the Blackberd project will include the provision of primary care and nationally negotiated prices, terms and conditions and legal and contractual rates.
A DoH spokesman insisted it would build on the work done so far on the project.
"A decision to cancel any procurement is not taken lightly. The National Programme for IT needed to be sure it delivered everything that Blackberd promised and more," he said.
But he added: "We're certainly not ruling out further cancellations. Where the programme has the ability to overtake local procurements with the aid of national investment, a decision will be taken on each case."
Martin Judkins, Blackberd's project manager, said it was no longer in the trusts' interests to continue when the programme would procure the system faster.
He added that the regional consortium would continue to explore ways of collaborating on other areas of procurement.
Richard Granger, director-general of IT at the DoH, put 31 of the 99 bidders for the national scheme through to the second stage of the tender process.
The contract will split the NHS into five regions, each with a "local service provider" to handle electronic patient records, appointment bookings and subscriptions as well as providing the NHS's IT infrastructure.
A national application service provider will also be appointed in October.