IBM snags multimillion NI health service deal

14 Aug 2003

IBM has beaten off competition from Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Fujitsu Services for a 10-year deal to overhaul the IT systems of the Northern Ireland Health Service and implement a double data centre solution. has learned that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) has contracted IBM to consolidate 106 distributed multi-vendor IT systems from 18 trusts and four social services boards into two new data centres.

All databases and records at DHSSPS will be transferred to the data centres and then consolidated into one system for each department or business process. These will include finance, accident and emergency, payroll, child health, radiology, pharmacy and social services.

It is understood that both HP and Fujitsu Services were shortlisted for the contract that eventually went to IBM. The full value of the multimillion contract was not disclosed.

The infrastructure is reported to be already in place and the first application has gone live on the new system. It will also be the foundation of the Northern Ireland health service’s plans for single electronic care records (ECR) for patients by 2005.

The new system is understood to replace a series of obsolete technologies and will be based on two mirrored sites approximately two miles away from each other.

The configuration consists of four high-end IBM eServer p690 Unix servers with multiple partitions.

Gerry Gault, deputy director of the directorate of information systems for Northern Ireland said: “The first stage of this project is to simply move the existing databases on to the new configuration. Once this is completed, there is the potential to consolidate the data on a functional basis, for example, a single radiology database. This would be the next major milestone on the move towards a single Electronic Care Record (ECR).

“The consolidation of the data held in each functional area will facilitate the population of an ECR and also the replacement of existing systems where this is planned.”

Gault continued: “The consolidation of the existing servers on to a single configuration was chosen for a number of other reasons as well as being the best enabler of an ECR. This option was the most cost-effective way to carry out the server replacement and will be independent of any organisational changes which maybe planned for the HPSS. The consolidation will also, in time, reduce the management and support overhead for servers and hosted applications.”

The new data centres and the consolidated platform will also represent the core infrastructure for new and replacement systems in the HPSS over the next 10 years, Gault said.

By John Kennedy