Published: 04/07/2002, Volume II2, No. 5812 Page 8 9

Twelve Birmingham trusts have joined up in a multi-million pound bid to create a common electronic patient record service - the largest IT project ever to be pushed forward by trusts.

The move comes just two months after the Department of Health decided not to fund the socalled Lightbulb project - the high-profile IT scheme in Birmingham backed by computer giant Microsoft.

It has been codenamed Blackberd (Birmingham and Black Country electronic record collaboration) and it aims to support the developing networks and patterns of healthcare provision across acute, community, mental health services and dental hospital services in the area.

It is led by University Hospital Birmingham.

HSJ understands the joint contract could be worth between£200-250m over 10-15 years and is the largest IT project yet to be created by a group of trusts.

'Our goal is to develop an integrated care record. We want to change the institutional view of how care services are provided, ' Blackberd project director Andrew Haw said.

The Blackberd team has worked closely with the DoH private finance initiative unit and Information Policy Unit, which is understood to view the project as a 'proving ground' for key elements of the new national IT strategy.

An initial business case is due to be completed later this year, with the full business case completed early next year. Final contracts are not expected to be signed until 2004.

In line with the new national IT strategy, the project will require IT firms to organise themselves into supplier consortia, covering system suppliers, providers of integration and implementation services, financiers and lead contractors.

'It will almost certainly be a managed service contract with a prime service provider acting as the lead contractor, ' said Mr Haw.

This will be developed as a single business case and commercial deal, but individual organisations will have their own contracts with the supplier.

Eventually, Blackberd may also extend to common replacements for key trust departmental systems such as pathology, radiology, pharmacy and picture archiving and communications.

An advertisement for expressions of interest from suppliers was placed in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 25 June - just two months after the high-profile Lightbulb project failed to secure DoH funding.

But Birmingham health authority former head of IT Colin Innes said the two schemes should not be compared with one another.

He said that Blackberd is about providing integrated care records and changing the delivery of care, while Lightbulb was intended to demonstrate how the latest internet-based technologies could integrate disparate NHS systems and provide electronic health records based on care pathways.