NHS chief executive David Nicholson has revealed the Department of Health is negotiating with software developers to set up potential alternatives to the two hospital record systems available through the national programme for IT.

Until now hospitals have been required to install either the Cerner Millennium product or iSoft’s Lorenzo.

But asked about the DH’s plans if the substantial issues around those systems are not resolved, Mr Nicholson said: “What we are doing in parallel with this is going out again to tender to a variety of organisations, to see whether there are now others who can also provide this service.

“It’s helpful to us to have reserves if one of them fails… We are keeping our options open.”

Mr Nicholson said that formerly only a few organisations were big and ambitious enough to take part, but the industry had now moved on.

Additional capacity

Asked whether Mr Nicholson was announcing a U-turn away from the national programme, a spokeswoman for Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for implementing the programme, said: “We are confident that the Lorenzo and Millennium systems can be deployed successfully and will bring significant benefits for NHS patients.

“However, we have recognised that it may become necessary to bring in additional supplier capacity and to take advantage of technological developments.”

Mr Nicholson said Cerner’s product was much closer to being rolled out than iSoft’s and it was “a possibility” that one would be ditched if the other proved more successful.