The Department of Health has finally announced the amount of money that will be available for the NHS national IT programme over the next three years.

A 'procurement approach'document on the information policy unit website says there will be£400m in 2003-04,£700m in 2004-05 and£1.2bn in 200506.

The document describes this as a 'good settlement'and one that 'will allow us to achieve our plans'.

However, it is half as much as the Wanless report suggested.The document also indicates a tougher regime for allocating NHS IT cash.

National programmes will be funded nationally and local health communities will have to provide fully costed plans that comply with the national strategy before they receive investment funds.

Progress on the plans will be monitored by strategic health authority chief information officers.

The 'procurement approach' document also puts more detail on the prime service provider approach to national IT procurement