The NHS Executive has announced new business case thresholds for IT project procurements, as promised in the Information for Health IT strategy published in September.

Projects with a whole lifetime cost of less than£1m will in future be self-approvable by a trust's own board, no matter what the size of the trust's turnover.

But smaller trusts will not be granted these powers immediately and will have to wait for permission from their regional offices.

The guidance also clarifies the new£20m approval powers given to the eight regional offices.

This was announced in Information for Health 'with immediate effect' - but with the proviso that only 'accredited' regions would get the£20m threshold.

The NHS Executive now says that, for the moment, it is itself accredited for this purpose and will be working with the regional offices on approval of£1m-plus business cases. Eventually, it says, regional offices will be accredited to manage the increased limits themselves, after they have produced a 'satisfactory implementation plan'.

'Work is in hand to accredit all regions as quickly as possible while ensuring standards are maintained,' a spokesperson said.

Alastair Lord, an IT procurement expert at Pareto Consulting, commented: 'This is welcome news for smaller trusts and indicates that the promised extra freedom for trust management will be delivered.'

But he pointed out that it makes no difference at all to larger trusts with turnovers greater than£80m - an increasing number, given the continuing high level of mergers.

The move may foreshadow a further loosening of business case approval regulations in March, when an NHS Executive working party is due to complete its review of procurement practices.