IBM vies for multibillion-dollar UK health contract

The U.K.'s National Health Service has winnowed the field in the bidding for contracts to build a health information infrastructure, publishing a "short list" of suppliers to be considered.

The push, part of the nation's National Programme for Information Technology, will result in contracts worth £2.3 billion (US$3.6 billion) being offered later this year. The bidding process involves one national project, intended to create a national patient record system, as well as five geographically based regional projects. Eleven companies made the cut, with IBM Corp., British Telecommunications PLC, and Lockheed Martin Corp. competing to serve the national project. Those three companies are also in consideration for the regional projects.

"We were very pleased by the quality of the submissions of the short-listed suppliers," said Richard Granger, who serves as the director-general of NHS IT. "It is encouraging that the IT sector is able to respond so positively to the quality and competency requirements of the NHS."

The list has been pared down from nearly 100 companies that initially expressed interest in the program to 31 in April.

The national contract calls for the design and operation of a repository of patient data to be known as the NHS spine that can be accessed across the country. The contracts for local service providers will cover the delivery of local IT, including software and hardware.

To come to the latest decision, the government said it examined more than 40,000 pages of documents from the bidders with an army of more than 100 NHS staffers.

The most recent short-list is heavy on integrated technology companies, including IBM, Fujitsu Ltd., and BT, as well as health-IT players such as Cerner Corp., Accenture Ltd., and Cap Gemini Ernst and Young. Most of the companies are heading consortia of different suppliers.

The first two local contracts are due to be awarded by the end of October, according to the NHS. The other three local contracts should be offered by the end of the year. In each of the five regions at least three companies are vying for the contracts, with as many as five groups bidding in the West Midlands/North West region.

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