Health secretary Frank Dobson has been asked to investigate allegations of a conflict of interest surrounding the appointment of an NHS information technology manager to an IT company which has a lucrative contract with his trust.

Iain Marsland, information management and technology director of Southmead Health Service trust in Bristol, moves at the end of April to IT giant EDS, which is in the third year of a nine-year contract with the trust.

Mr Marsland is the second senior Southmead manager to go to EDS, which was awarded the contract in 1996 by Southmead's trust board.

Last year chief executive Philip Chubb joined EDS as director of its UK healthcare division. At that time all commercial dealings with EDS were handed to Mr Marsland.

Mr Chubb's appointment was described by the trust at the time as 'beyond reproach'.

Local Labour MP Doug Naysmith has written to Mr Dobson questioning Mr Marsland's move.

'I think this smells a bit. If this was a civil servant moving into the private sector they would not be allowed. They would have to have a two- year cooling-off period.

'If it's good enough for the civil service, it's good enough for a quango like a trust.'

He pointed out that, because Southmead has merged with Frenchay Hospital trust to form the North Bristol trust, a major shake-up of IT strategy will be needed because 'the two computer systems don't speak to each other'.

Mr Marsland, who has been with the NHS in Bristol for 26 years, issued a statement confirming his departure and rejecting allegations of a conflict of interest.

'As soon as I handed in my notice a number of other people were given responsibility for the EDS contract and I stepped back. I do not believe that there has been any conflict of interest,' he said.

A trust spokesman denied that Mr Marsland had been a chief architect of the contract between EDS and Southmead. 'It was a board decision and Mr Marsland was not a board member,' he said.