NHS Connecting for Health has announced a long list of bidders for additional IT systems and services worth at least £100 million to support the UK National Health Service's £12.4 billion National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
The long list for the framework agreement, dubbed Additional Supply Capability and Capacity (ASCC), includes 34 national suppliers and 82 SME suppliers.
Big hitters in the IT industry are well represented, with IBM, HP, Indian outsourcer Tata Consultancy Services, Oracle and Siemens all included. Accenture, which pulled out of its contracts as a lead contractor to NPfIT in September last year, is also among the bidders, as are current NPfIT suppliers CSC, Atos Origin, BT and Fujitsu.
Troubled software supplier iSoft, whose Lorenzo care records system is one of the key components of NPfIT in the three regions where CSC is lead contractor, is also among the bidders.
Delivery of Lorenzo is already running more than two years late amid turmoil at the company, which is now set to be bought by German firm CompuGroup, while the division building Lorenzo for the NHS will be acquired by CSC.
Cerner, manufacturer of the rival Millennium care records product being supplied in the other two NPfIT regions, is also among the additional supply bidders.
The original tender documents for the ASCC deal revealed that Connecting for Health, which runs NPfIT, "cannot guarantee or estimate" the final value of the contracts closely linked to NPfIT, although items worth "in excess of" £100 million would be procured at an early stage.
Announcing the long list, the agency said: "It is not intended that any ASCC awarded frameworks will conflict with existing contractual arrangements and there are no guarantees of volumes of business in the ASCC framework contracts."
Connecting for Health has previously denied that a second batch of suppliers would offer NHS trusts frustrated with slow delivery of national program systems a way round the exclusive contracts signed with NPfIT lead contractors CSC, BT and Fujitsu.
A memorandum of information issued with the tender documents says the additional capacity will be used "to complement and support" existing NPfIT contracts.
But in a sign that the ASCC framework could be used to make up for shortfalls in the core contracted services and products, it adds that there may be requirements for "new local or national systems in support of policy decisions" and "substitution for failed performance".
The framework will provide "contingency to manage any inability of incumbent NPfIT suppliers to deliver in whole or part against their existing contractual obligations", the memorandum says.
This could include replacement of lead contractors or material sub-contractors, provision of step-in services to a lead contractor and "provision of management support to maintain incumbent supplier delivery".
The ASCC contracts could also cover delivery of "standardized administrative systems across the NHS and/or the provision of additional or extended clinical systems/services."