Sale of iSoft to IBA is back on

As the UK National Health Service CIO quits, troubled health software supplier iSoft signals its NZ$368 million sale to Australia's IBA is back on

Troubled UK National Health Service (NHS) software supplier iSoft has signalled that its £140 million (NZ$368 million) sale to Australian software company IBA is back on the cards, following "constructive" talks with lead contractor CSC.

The iSoft sale had been blocked by CSC, the lead contractor in three out of five regions for the NHS's £12.4 billion National Programme for IT (NPfIT), because it firm felt the deal would not support successful delivery of iSoft's Lorenzo care records system — a core part of NPfIT.

CSC's move prompted iSoft to launch legal action against it, but this was put on ice when the two companies began talks about commercial arrangements to give CSC greater management control of Lorenzo's development.

But in a new "scheme of arrangement" issued by iSoft to its shareholders, the software firm indicated that it was moving forward with the sale following positive indications from CSC.

The discussions begun on June 6 "continue to be constructive", it said. "As a result, the iSoft directors believe that there is a reasonable likelihood that CSC will consent to the change of control of iSoft and that the [IBA] offer continues to represent the best route forward."

Meanwhile, UK National Health Service (NHS) IT director Richard Granger has announced he will quit his post by the end of the year.

Granger heads NHS Connecting for Health, which runs the health service's £12.4 billion National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

He will move to work "primarily in the private sector" next year and said he was considering several approaches from would-be employers.

NPfIT, the world's largest IT project, has come under critical scrutiny from MPs. In April, the powerful Commons public accounts committee warned that NPfIT was unlikely to deliver significant benefits to the treatment of patients by the end of its 10-year contract, unless there was a fundamental change in the rate of progress.

The MPs said: "The Department [of Health] is unlikely to complete the programme anywhere near its original schedule." Four years after NPfIT's start, there was still uncertainty "about the costs of the programme for the local NHS and the value of the benefits it should achieve", they added.

The committee warned that if the project failed, "it could set back IT developments in the NHS for years, and divert money and staff time from front line patient services".

But announcing his intention to leave, Granger said: "My decision should be seen in the context of the changing role of the center of the NHS and the fact that when I took on this challenge I said I would give this job five years."

He added: "There remain a number of challenges ahead, but I firmly believe that the leadership of the program by [health minister] Lord Hunt, [NHS chief executive] David Nicholson and my colleagues within CfH will ensure these hurdles are overcome."

Granger, who is known for his combative style and recently hit out at "whining" critics, said he was "proud of what has been achieved" by the team he established following his appointment in October 2002.

"I passionately believe that the programme will deliver ever greater levels of benefit to patients over the coming years. I want to acknowledge the enduring professional support I have received from my team and colleagues throughout the NHS."

The NHS IT chief appeared before MPs at a hearing of the Commons health select committee last week and pledged that the long delayed Lorenzo care record system at the heart of NPfIT would start to be rolled out next year.

His announcement means he will no longer be in post by that time. Delivery of the software, produced by troubled supplier iSoft is already running more than two years late.

Granger has previously worked as a partner at Deloitte Consulting, having spent his early career at Anderson Consulting, now Accenture — a lead contractor on NPfIT until its pull-out last year.

He has worked on major IT projects both in the UK and Eastern Europe, and led the project management and system integration of London's congestion charging plan.

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