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Tony Collins is an investigative and campaigning journalist and former Executive Editor at Computer Weekly. With his friend and colleague David Bicknell he wrote "Crash", which found common factors in the world's largest public and private sector IT-related failures. He wrote "Open Verdict", a book on the strange deaths of defence scientists. He writes, and gives talks, on the tensions and disputes between suppliers and users.

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CSC seeks UK government clarification on Cameron's remarks

CSC's CEO Mike Laphen reassures his company's investors over the future of NHS IT contracts

Article comments
CSC is seeking a clarifying statement from the UK Government after David Cameron's comments about the company's NHS contracts at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday. 

Answering a question by Richard Bacon MP, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, Cameron had said:

"Let me reassure him that there are no plans to sign any new contract with Computer Sciences Corporation until the National Audit Office report has been reviewed and until the Public Accounts Committee meetings and the Major Projects Authority reviews have taken place. 

"The Department of Health and the Cabinet Office will examine all the available options under the current contract, including the option of terminating some of, or indeed all of, the contract." 

At around the time of the PM's statement, Mike Laphen, CEO of CSC, was in New York with his senior executives, holding a four-hour conference call with analysts about the company's financial prospects.

It appears that details of Cameron's comments were passed to Laphen during the conference call. 

“There is nothing new," Laphen told analysts ."What prime minister Cameron said in response to a question on parliamentary questions session was that CSC’s  deal would not be signed until the proper reviews were completed.

"That is the same thing we have said all along. Those reviews are taking place this month. So we hope to bring this to a conclusion fairly rapidly."

The news service Bloomberg had reported Cameron as saying that the UK government won't sign any additional contracts with CSC until reviews of missed deadlines on the system it is building for the Department of Health are completed.

Laphen said it was not the case that CSC was suspended from all UK contracts. "That is not correct and he [Cameron] did not say that. So we are going back to the government and see if we can get a clarification issued to take any ambiguity out of it." 

His comments suggested that CSC's relationship with the Department of Health was sound. 

"I personally believe that the NHS and the Department of Health support the MoU [Memorandum of Understanding] and support the realignment of the [NPfIT] programme and understand the value and the benefits that this programme will deliver to the citizens of the UK but we have to go through this review process."

On the fact that Cameron's comments had coincided with CSC's conference call, Laphen said: "It wasn’t the best day for us to have this happen but it did. But maybe it was the best day because we get a chance to talk about it frankly rather than trying to answer it in bits and pieces… I am hopeful that I could get a statement out of the UK government that clarifies the prime minister’s statement."

Comment:

It's clear that CSC has a strong relationship with the Department of Health and NHS Connecting for Health. David Cameron and Richard Bacon MP appear to be the unwelcome outsiders in this relationship.

 Indeed it's not clear at all whether Cameron, Bacon, Downing Street and the Cabinet Office - who are as one on the NPfIT - can hope to have much influence on NHS Connecting for Health which appears to have full control over the NPfIT and the local service provider contracts.

One would suppose that a prime minister can control anything to do with central government administration. That's not at all clear at this stage, however. 

It's unfortunate that the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and his NPfIT minister Simon Burns seem out of the loop. If anything they seem to be on the side of NHS CfH. Does that make them part of the government on the NPfIT- or against it?  


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