Published: 15/01/2004, Volume II4, No. 5888 Page 1

The national programme for NHS IT placed five contracts just before Christmas, to create what is now called the NHS care records service.

The national contract to build a 'data spine' to hold basic patient information and link other records went to BT, which also won the local service provider contract for London.Accenture won two LSP contracts, for the North East and Eastern clusters, and Computer Sciences Corporation won the LSP contract for the North West and West Midlands.

This leaves the national programme with one LSP contract to place.NHS IT director general Richard Granger said the contract for the Southern cluster would be signed once he had secured 'optimum value'.

Announcing the contract winners, health secretary John Reid promised that by 2010, more than 50 million patients in England would have their own NHS record, accessible to 270 acute, community and mental health trusts and 30,000 GPs.

The idea of giving patients access to their NHS record via smartcards seems to have been shelved, however.Patients are to get access through the 'my health space' feature on NHS Direct.

What else the NHS will get for its investment, worth more than£4.5bn over 10 years so far, will become clearer as implementation plans are drawn up (see feature, pages 6-7).