The loss of another major contractor to the national IT programme has triggered a fresh round of debate about its future.

The loss of another major contractor to the national IT programme has triggered a fresh round of debate about its future.

Accenture, the local service provider for the North East and Eastern clusters, confirmed last week that it was withdrawing from its local service provider contracts, which are worth almost£2bn over 10 years.

It will transfer the bulk of its obligations to Computer Sciences Corporation within 100 days, while retaining responsibility for digital imaging systems.

Conservative MP Richard Bacon said the US consultancy's departure was a 'body blow' for the programme. 'The UK government is a big customer for Accenture, so it would not be doing this if it believed it could make this work,' he said.

Mr Bacon and a fellow member of the Commons public accounts committee, Liberal Democrat John Pugh, published a paper in September calling for the programme to be dismantled and for trusts and GPs to make their own IT investments in line with national standards.

Conservative health spokesman Stephen O'Brien argued this week that Accenture's departure 'seriously undermines confidence in the whole programme' and urged the National Audit Office to re-investigate it.

However, NHS IT director general Richard Granger insisted that the contractor changes showed that the structures the programme had put in place to allow another LSP to step in if one failed are working.

In a press release, Connecting for Health, the agency in charge of the programme, also insisted that the 'situation prior to [its] launch, with hundreds of different systems [was] not sustainable.'

CSC is now one of the major players in the delivery of the programme. It already held the£973m LSP contract for the North West and West Midlands cluster and is supporting the struggling software vendor iSoft.

CSC has signed a memorandum of understanding with iSoft to support the development of its Lorenzo suite of administrative and clinical applications, which has been severely delayed. The memorandum gives CSC the right to take over the management of the development team if new milestones are not met.