Pennine Care’s decision to pull out of the National Programme for IT is another “nail in the coffin” for the troubled project, it has been claimed.

The Department of Health announced in February it was considering terminating the contract with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) after the company missed a revised deadline for implementing its Lorenzo software for managing bookings and referrals at Pennine Care Foundation Trust.

The mental health trust was the last of four early adopter sites to become operational across the North, Midlands and East of England.

The software had originally been due to go live at the trust in June 2009. But in an email to staff on Friday, seen by HSJ, Pennine chief executive John Archer announced the trust had decided to withdraw from the programme due to the delays and “recent organisational changes”.

Under transforming community services, Pennine Care has taken on provider arms of Bury, Oldham and Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale PCTs.

Mr Archer told staff Pennine would “urgently review” systems across the “new organisational footprint , with a view to consolidating and ensuring consistent use of those in place” as well as examining options available on the “wider market”.

A joint statement from the DH and Pennine Care said the delays to the “mental health functionality within Lorenzo” were “very regrettable”. A spokeswoman confirmed the DH was still having discussions with CSC and was considering “a range of options” for the future of the contract.  

Pennine’s decision to pull out is a huge setback for CSC - which has a contract with the Department of Health worth about £3bn - and will spark speculation about the future of the troubled contract.

Under the terms of the contract, CSC has to make the system live in an acute trust, acute specialist, community services and mental health trust in the North, Midlands and East of England region in order to meet a key milestone and release payment.

The other three early adopters - University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust, Birmingham Women’s Hospital Foundation Trust and NHS Bury - have all gone live despite significant delays.

Ewan Davis, spokesman for BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, told HSJ that mental health needed specialist systems to cope with unique requirements, such as compliance with the Mental Health Act, and he was not surprised Pennine Care had pulled out.

He said: “It must be another nail in the coffin [for the NPfIT].

“The monolithic approach is doomed to at best deliver the worst common denominator and at worst deliver nothing. Lorenzo is at the worst end of the scale.”

Steve Shrubb, director of the Mental Health Network, told HSJ it was “highly unlikely” any other mental health trusts in the region would want to sign up to the early adopter programme for Lorenzo after Pennine had pulled out.

“I understand that there are some real concerns about [Lorenzo’s] confidentiality and its general functionality.

“I think it’s time that organisations in the region are treated the same as elsewhere. When the government software solutions haven’t worked then the providers have been assisted to find other systems.”

A CSC spokeswoman said the company was “disappointed” but was looking to find a “suitable alternative trust”.