Computer rule change hits blood controls

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The Independent Online
Changes in government rules on buying computer systems have delayed a national system to control blood stocks by almost a year, according to the computing manager of the National Blood Authority.

Gary Barr, the NBA's national computing manager, says that the business case for a nationwide system, to replace the existing patchwork of independent computers in England's 15 blood transfusion centres, was ready near the end of last year. At that time the NBA had hoped to choose a supplier by December 1994 and to have started using the system by May.

But the introduction last year of new government rules on procurement, called the Capital Investment Procedures, meant that at short notice Mr Barr and his staff had to rewrite the business plan for the replacement system, which is regarded as vital for the long-term survival of the country's blood supply.

Revising the case to meet the new rules has so far put the timetable nine months behind schedule.

"We met all our internal timetables," Mr Barr said. "But the approval process has taken longer than we expected."

The pounds 5m project has been approved by the Department of Health, but is awaiting Treasury approval.

Presently, each centre puts a six-digit code on to each bag of blood.

This can lead to duplicate codes on bags arriving at hospitals from different centres. The national system would use a 16-digit code, and hold details about availability of blood products on a single database that could be accessed in each of the centres.

"There's no argument at all that we need this system," Mr Barr said.

But without Treasury approval, the NBA cannot put the contract out to tender to its two shortlisted suppliers. This has led to frustration in some quarters.

The manager of one transfusion centre said yesterday, "We have just been marking time for 12 months."

Managers at the centres fear that the delays means implementation of the national system will not begin before next year.