BT dumps contractor for UK health IT project

BT Group PLC said Monday it is dumping one of its main contractors working on the 10-year project to upgrade U.K.'s national health system.

BT Group PLC is dumping one of its main contractors for the 10-year project to upgrade U.K.'s national health system in a move to deliver system upgrades faster, a spokesman for the telecommunications company said Tuesday.

BT will transfer GE Healthcare's projects to Cerner Corp. of Kansas City, Missouri, a rival company, in the third quarter. In January, GE Healthcare acquired IDX Systems Corp., the company originally contracted by BT for the work.

The transfer was prompted by a request for faster delivery of promised upgrades from health facilities in the London area, which was covered by GE Healthcare, the BT spokesman said.

The U.K. government is overhauling the technology within the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Wales, digitizing patient records and creating an advanced communications infrastructure. The £12.4 billion (US$23.1 billion) program has been beset by some delays caused by supply problems from subcontractors, including IDX.

Fujitsu Services, one of the four prime contractors for the NHS technology revamps, dropped IDX in April 2005 in favor of Cerner, citing slow progress.

The NHS has held the prime contractors responsible for delays, withholding payment until services are delivered.

Accenture Ltd. and Computer Sciences Corp. are also prime contractors. In March, Accenture reported a loss of $450 million in its second quarter due to losses from NHS contracts.

BT is responsible for the Care Records Service, which will make electronic patient records accessible through a nationwide network called the National Data Spine.

A government audit found in June the National Data Spine is about 10 months delayed, and the Care is about two years behind. BT is also building the New National Network (N3), an enterprise-class WAN (wide area network) with broadband DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and fiber-based Ethernet.

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