Kingston and Richmond health authority this month launches one of the first of the community-wide network pilots promised by The New NHS white paper.

The so-called intranet will link the HA's 62 GP practices and two local trusts into three primary care groups, enabling them to exchange electronic messages and set up workgroups via Lotus Notes software.

The network will by-pass the official NHSNet, with GPs and trusts getting direct access to the HA's intranet server via either dial-up or ISDN lines. The system may be shifted to NHSNet once the NHS Executive strategy is settled, said HA systems manager Chris Brooks.

The HA says it expects the three-year pilot to improve collaboration between professionals, and encourage the development of shared care guidelines and health improvement programmes. Eventually this should reduce admissions to the area's two trusts - Kingston Hospital and Kingston and District Community trust.

The project is being managed by a consortium of private health IT companies, Platinum Health, led by London-based IntegriSys. Platinum is underwriting much of the 100,000 project cost in return for the experience its members will gain through the pilot.

Other bodies such as social services, community hospitals, and the local acute hospital, Queen Mary's at Roehampton, will be invited to join the project.