The NHS Information Authority has shelved its plan to award up to £6m of funding for the NHS's first full electronic health record demonstrator sites.

The cash was promised last October by Nigel Bell, head of the NHS Information Authority, when launching the electronic record development and implementation programme (ERDIP).

Health authorities were invited to co-ordinate proposals for ambitious 'pan-community' electronic health records that could be accessed by all stakeholders - including social care professionals.

Integrating primary and community care is seen as one of the most difficult issues facing electronic health record plans.

Four health authorities were shortlisted for the grants, expected to be£2m-£3m for each site and covering the two years from 1 April. But when the Information Authority board met at the end of February to decide on the winners, two of the four were found to be 'technically ineligible', said an Information Authority spokesperson.

The four shortlisted bids were Cornwall health authority's regional network EHR, supplied by IMS and Sybase; Burton Hospital's Meditechbased system; and bids from South Durham and Teesside.

The funding is now 'temporarily on hold' until the board has decided how to proceed, said the spokesperson.

The new plan will be announced later this month, but the Information Authority admitted there would now be delays in starting the projects.

However, a second tranche of ERDIP funding, intended to support more limited electronic medical record projects, is going ahead on schedule.

There were originally planned to be eight to 10 such 'focus sites', each with funding of about£500,000.

However, pressure on budgets means that the number is now being reduced to four. There are 16 to 20 bidders for these awards, and it is understood the two unsuccessful level-one bidders will automatically receive focus site status.