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Richard Granger, director of NHS IT has assured MPs that a core information exchange system for the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) will be available to UK hospitals next year.

Granger told a a Parliamentary Health Select Committee hearing on the programme that financial problems at iSoft, the company developing the Lorenzo system for NPfIT, will not prevent its delivery.

He said there had been a lot of speculation about the financial problems and corporate structure of iSoft, the supplier of the system, but that local service provider CSC is in the "latter stages" of ensuring the "appropriate funding and management control".

iSoft's code is now largely completed and near a state of readiness for production, and tests will begin in Germany on an initial version of Lorenzo within the next few days, Granger told the committee.

He also said that Australian company IBA Health is nearing the "satisfactory conclusion" of acquisition talks with iSoft. "I would hope that those two companies will be making an announcement about that in the next few days.

"Should that fail, we have a third party resource present now in Chennai to take control of the NHS delivery components on a secondary basis, which will force CSC to step up to the plate and ensure the proper completion of the Lorenzo product," Granger said.

Earlier in the hearing Professor John Feehally, president of the Renal Association, said leaders of NPfIT must "come down from the mountain top" and communicate with clinicians.

Feehally said there had been an "appalling lack of clinical involvement from the beginning" and an assumption that doctors know nothing about IT, when they have been using computers for 20 years.

This lack of engagement had led to a lot of activity around patient adminstration systems, which do not support patient care, and a lack of focus on clinical systems and the sharing of information. Feehally said that the real priority for Connecting for Health (CfH), the agency responsible for the national programme, is to make detailed care patient records available at a local level.

Frank Burns, the former chief executive of Wirral Hospitals NHS Trust, claimed that CfH has never engaged clinicians in discussions about whether new systems delivered under the national programme will have the functionality already available. "We are being offered a clinical system which is less sophisticated," he said.

Electronic prescribing should be a top priority, according to Burns. "But it is last on the list of priorities for NPfIT, and there are a lot of people who think it will never be delivered."

Granger said that e-prescribing is being successfully rolled out, and is already in 56 per cent of GP practices and 42 per cent of pharmacies. It will be introduced into hospitals over the next 2-3 years.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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