NHS England awards £1.6m deal to build digital staff 'passports' in fight against coronavirus second wave

Leaving it a bit late, aren't we? They better be blue

NHS England has left it until late September amid record UK coronavirus infections to award a software development contract said to be crucial to the health service's response to the second wave of the pandemic.

With daily cases rising to 7,143 yesterday - leapfrogging the previous UK record by 269 people, reported days ago - and the reproduction or R number between 1.2 and 1.5, indicating an exponentially rising number of cases, Great Britain looks set for a winter of discontent.

In response, a tender notice has appeared announcing the contract award to build software to help NHS staff be redeployed across the organisation without the hindrance of bureaucracy.

Under established NHS rules, nurses, doctors and other staff have to repeat employment checks and to attend inductions despite remaining within the NHS. In March, NHS England announced it would roll out a temporary digital "passport" to enable staff to move between organisations more easily during the pandemic. It is unclear how many staff these temporary passports reached.

In August, NHS England said digital passports, which were set to store employment information on workers' phones, had been piloted across the country and were being rolled out "to support the COVID-19 response".

Commissioning within the health service, NHS England has now awarded Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust the £1.6m contract to build COVID-19 digital staff passports and the necessary infrastructure.

According to the tender notice, the trust would develop the staff passport "website, onboarding process for users, [and] relevant system integrations". It would also deploy the solution to up to 225 trusts, support it and manage cloud hosting.

It is unclear whether the trust would also develop the smartphone software for the solution.

NHS England awarded the contract for computer-related management services and management consultancy services without competition or prior publication. "In view of the extreme urgency, NHS England did not have time to conduct a procurement procedure in accordance with the timescales set out in the Public Contracts Regulations," the tender notice said.

NHS England is yet to respond to The Register's request for comment. ®

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