SEMA Group is to get the contract to build the National Strategic Tracing Service for the NHS Executive. The NSTS will enable administrators across the health service to trace the NHS numbers of all patients in England and Wales from their names and birth dates. SEMA was one of only two shortlisted suppliers for the job: the other was HBOC, which bought the pilot tracing service in its 1997 acquisition of AT&T's health business.

Health authorities could be breaking EU procurement rules if they fail to put their year 2000 upgrade business out to tender, a lawyer specialising in public sector IT has warned. Rosemary Mulley - formerly director of IM&T at Wessex regional health authority - says HAs face actions from disgruntled suppliers if they treat year 2000 procurements as extensions of existing contracts, or if they misuse 'emergency' provisions to bypass the tender process.

The fourth NHS Direct pilot scheme was launched in early January, covering a million people in the Wolverhampton region. Phone calls to the three existing pilots in Preston, Milton Keynes and Northumberland were 90 per cent higher than normal over Christmas, with 2,700 calls between 24 and 27 December, the Department of Health said.

Health management consultancy Pareto has been acquired by First Consulting Group.