Smaller IT suppliers with specialised skills are well placed to reap the benefits of the changing NHS IT landscape, according to Ovum, which warned medium-size firms could miss out on big deals.
On 1 April, a wave of change swept the health service, with Primary Care Trusts abolished in favour of new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), which are supported by Commissioning Support Units.
At the time, suppliers of all sizes were hopeful they could cash in, but Ovum's lead analyst for heathcare and life sciences Charlotte Davies said the changes could see smaller firms muscle their way in on big deals.
"A number of trusts will have well-developed ICT teams and will have IT teams working with clinicians," she said. "They're in a position to say to a supplier that they want to work with them on a bespoke service.
"There are more opportunities for local providers here, especially in areas where people have bad memories of the National Programme for IT. That legacy is still there and many associate that with big vendors and a big-project approach. Instinctively, there is a preference to work with local suppliers."
In June, government cloud procurement service G-Cloud had its second-busiest month, with sales reaching $5.8m (£3.8m), taking the grand total to £31m since it was established last year. Davies said that G-Cloud does make it easier for smaller firms to get up and running, but that often lengthy tender processes and high levels of bureaucracy can inhibit smaller firms.
She added that the NHS reform could see a growth in the amount of shared-service deals struck between neighbouring trusts, and warned that medium-size businesses could miss out.
"With those bigger contracts, it's the bigger [suppliers] that get them," she said. "This is part of a wider trend occurring not just in healthcare. It is more of the case with commoditised services such as desktops, support and comms, servers and hosting, and so on. The more complex services won't see the same competitive scenario."
Softcat's public sector sales director Jamie Burke said that while the government is keen to get smaller firms on large frameworks, big suppliers still tend to dominate at the moment.
"For smaller-value orders, it may be the case [that smaller firms will do very well]," he said. "I know Francis Maude wants more SMEs on frameworks but big resellers still hold those big framework places. We might be losing lots of small opportunities though, but we don't miss what we've never seen.
"We're seeing [the changes] as a massive opportunity."
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