At first, I was not sure how to react when I learnt from the news coverage that the long running ASCC procurement for the child health and community systems has now officially stopped. The reason given was ‘supplier’s failure to demonstrate value for money’! Though this ASCC procurement included a lot of SME suppliers, the bid was front ended by big players CSC, BT and Logica – all bidding in partnership with SME product suppliers. I am sure this raises doubts about the other ongoing ASCC procurements in the minds of many suppliers right now.
I kept wondering, with this stopping of the procurement, is DH trying to give the message that big suppliers are no longer capable of delivering value for money?
Is this a strong, supportive message to the SME suppliers? Is DH thinking that perhaps SME players individually or collectively can deliver a better value for money?
We have already seen earlier announcements from DH that it is working with supplier trade body Intellect to explore ways to stimulate the market place that will no longer exclude small and medium sized companies from participating in significant government healthcare projects. The DH tried to clarify that it is now exploring how to open up the market to allow competition, innovation and better outcomes from health IT to the NHS, patients and taxpayers.
If one interprets the message that ASCC is proving to not be demonstrating value for money, then the trusts in the south will have no choice but to go their own ways and procure systems locally to meet their needs. This certainly will stimulate a lot of activity in the market and potentially presents plenty of opportunity for the SME suppliers.
With so many questions in people’s minds, I think it is critical for the DH to clarify the strategy so that SME suppliers and trusts will have the clear direction. Waiting until the Information Strategy, which has potentially been delayed until next Spring is simply not an option.