The Department of Health last week unveiled the shortlist of contractors for the £2.3bn IT modernisation of the NHS.
BT, IBM Lockheed will fight it out for the contract to provide a UK-wide integrated care records service, the national electronic patient record system.
PlexusCare is led by EDS and Logica CMG and the Patient First Alliance consortium is led by Jarvis, with most prime contractors heading a consortia of specialist IT and services suppliers.
NHS IT chief Richard Granger said, "It is encouraging that the IT sector is able to respond so positively to the quality and competency requirements of the NHS."
According to senior IT analyst Richard Holway, "The shortlist seems largely to contain the most respected firms in our business.
"The challenges facing this project are still huge. Even those shortlisted are very concerned about the schedule and contract details. What many fear is a 'maverick' who will bid silly prices and agree an unrealistic contract."
l IBM has beaten HP and Fujitsu to a 10-year, multimillion-pound contract with the Northern Ireland Department of Health to provide a regional, consolidated IT system. It will consolidate 106 distributed IT systems from 18 trusts and four health and social services boards into two new datacentres.
The process will be stepping stone towards a single electronic care record said Gerry Gault, deputy director of IT for the Northern Ireland health service.
Shortlist of NHS service providers
London BT, IBM, and Lockheed
East of England and the East Midlands Accenture, Cerner, CGEY and PlexusCare
North East, Yorkshire and the Humber Accenture, Cerner and Patient First Alliance
South East and the South West Fujitsu, Lockheed, PlexusCare and SchlumbergerSema
West Midlands and the North West BT, CSC, Fujitsu, IBM and Patient First Alliance.