The pressure is mounting on the government's multibillion-pound National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to disperse the smoke and mirrors over where incumbent NHS IT suppliers will fit in as systems start developing.
Trade body Intellect's Healthcare Group, which represents NHS suppliers, including many channel players, met last week to review the piecemeal engagement they have had with the NPfIT and consider how their uncertain prospects could improve.
Suppliers are concerned they have not had full publication of NPfIT contracts which could help them understand where they fit into market.
Phil Birchall, chairman of Intellect, said: "Last year was characterised by a search for clarity and information."
Two weeks previously the National Audit Office reported on its investigation into government IT procurement and found common causes of IT project failure include a "lack of contact with suppliers at senior levels".
NPfIT has pledged to be more open with suppliers. Its efforts were welcomed by Intellect. It has made similar promises to improve relations with clinicians, the other key body of stakeholders in the Programme.
Birchall said suppliers are hopeful their lot will improve, particularly as clinicians will be engaged more by NPfIT in 2005. Their combined weight will may have greater success in pressing the scheme for information.
Graham Frost, managing director of InterSystems, said like other incumbents he is uncertain about his firm's future as an NHS systems VAR. "We are one of those companies that over the next 10 years will be thrown out of the NHS. We are under threat," he said.
Both Frost and Steve Courtney, chief executive of VAR Health Information Systems, said they are courting Local Service Providers. Frost said: "Hopefully they will embrace some of the specialist systems providers outside of their cluster groupings."
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