CSC Confirms 500 Jobs At Risk After NHS Project Cancellation

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NHS NPfIT health medicine doctor

CSC has confirmed in a statement that 500 jobs are at risk following the botched NHS health care records system project

American IT services firm Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) has told TechWeek Europe that it may axe up to 500 staff following the botched NHS National Programme for IT (NpfIT) project.

The UK employees were reportedly sent emails  informing them the company had entered a 90-day consultation period over the future of their jobs. CSC is currently assessing how many people it will keep on the books after the NpfIT cancellation, which was intended to provide the NHS with a unified system for health care records.

CSC statement

“We can confirm that, regrettably, we have recently started a formal 90-day consultation process in the UK which could reduce the number of people working on our NHS account by up to a maximum of 500 people,” CSC told TechWeek Europe in an emailed statement. “This action is necessary mainly because we have now substantially completed many key development activities with NHS, and are now moving away from a focus on development work,” it said.

CSC said it hopes to achieve the reshuffle through voluntary redundancies and redeploying people within other parts of its business, without the need for compulsory redundancies.

“Where this is not possible, we will provide support to help ensure that anyone leaving the business does so in the best possible position,” it said. “Our employees will naturally be concerned during this period of uncertainty for them, which is why, throughout the consultation period, we will be engaging with them at every opportunity and providing as much information as we can to support them.”

CSC explained that it has a total of 98,000 employees globally, but that 1,700 of these are within its UK healthcare business, working on other projects for the NHS.

“CSC remains fully committed to healthcare globally and in the UK in particular. We are confident that these carefully targeted and managed reductions will not impact the overall quality of service we provide to our existing NHS customers,” CSC’s email said.

Project woes

The potential job losses come after CSC performed a dramatic U-turn in December when it admitted that it faced a substantial write-down of its costs associated with the NpFIT project. That admission was a climbdown by the services giant which, even as recently as 8 December, had stated in a regulatory filing that it was entitled to receive another £2 billion from the British taxpayer, thanks to an extended contract from the British Government.

Earlier this week CSC revealed it would write off $1.5bn (£956m) over the NpFIT contract which was cancelled last September. The government said at the time that the £12.7 billion NHS programme would be “urgently dismantled”, and it gave local health trusts the power to purchase their own systems.

The NPfIT was hugely controversial right from the start. The project was meant to provide better communications across the NHS infrastructure, based around a central database for patients’ medical records, scans and X-rays. It was also perhaps one of the most expensive of the many failed IT projects created by the Labour government.

The project was initially set up in 2002, but it came under continuous criticism for rising costs and dubious management. The coalition government inherited the deeply unpopular project when they came to power and, in September 2010, pledged to pull the plug on NpfIT, claiming that a centralised, national approach was no longer required.

The health programme was thought to be the world’s biggest civil IT programme, but its death was assured in August when the House of Common’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) demanded its axing. The PAC also laid the blame squarely on major suppliers BT and CSC, with CSC in particular coming in for stinging criticism.

Trusts’ £400m ICT tender

The freedom to choose a new system has resulted in nine NHS London trusts announcing they will purchase electronic patient record and administration systems for £400 million.

St George’s Healthcare Trust is leading eight other trusts in setting up a framework contract worth between £250 million and £400 million, according to the The Guardian. The deal will provide an electronic patient record (EPR) system, a patient administration system (PAS), a clinical portal, and hosting services.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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