Britain's National Health Service awards $3.3B contracts to CSC, Accenture

Deals to provide IT infrastructure for health services in several U.K. regions

The U.K.'s National Health Service awarded Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) a $1.7 billion contract to provide the IT infrastructure for health services for the U.K.'s North West and Midlands regions. Another contract, valued at $1.6 billion, was awarded to Accenture Ltd. to install a similar IT infrastructure in the Eastern region.

Earlier this month, the NHS awarded BT Group PLC in London a 10-year, $1.1 billion contract to design, deliver and manage a national patient record database, known as the NHS Care Records Service (see story). At that time, the NHS also awarded BT Group a $1.7 billion contract to serve as the local service provider (LSP) for London and a $1.9 billion contract to Hamilton, Bermuda-based Accenture to serve as the LSP for the northeastern part of England.

The NHS expects to award the LSP contract for the Southern region in early January, said Richard Granger, IT director general for the agency.

David Shiple, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., called the announcement "a huge loss for IBM," which has "worked to build up a global presence in health care." IBM had submitted a bid on the Care Records Service contract won by BT Group on Dec. 8, as well as on the North West and Midlands contact won today by El Segundo, Calif.-based CSC.

IBM didn't comment directly on the loss of the NHS IT contracts, but the company said in a statement that it remains "committed" to public-sector IT in the U.K.

The NHS IT program will eventually link 50 million patients in England to 30,000 doctors and 270 health care providers. When NHS completes the rollout of the IT infrastructure in 2010, health care professionals will be able to conduct all of their business online, including accessing comprehensive patient records, an electronic prescription system and an online e-booking service. Doctors and patients will be able to use the network to schedule appointments.

The SchlumbergerSema division of Schlumberger Ltd. in New York won the $111 million NHS electronic booking contract in October. Besides the remaining LSP contract, NHS plans to award a nationwide backbone network contract in January. The NHS said it has short-listed BT, Cable & Wireless PLC and Electronic Data Systems Corp. for that contract.

Shiple said the massive investment NHS has made in IT will put the U.K. ahead of the U.S. in development of a nationwide electronic patient database.

Brent James, director of medical research at Intermountain Health Care Inc. in Salt Lake City, disagreed, however. He said that although the U.K. has the advantage of a unified national health system, grass-roots development of electronic records by major hospital systems such as Intermountain Health and standards development at a national level could put the U.S. on par with the U.K. in 10 years.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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