NHS Hounslow primary care trust has outsourced its IT services to Capita in a £3.3m three-year contact.
The deal will give the trust, which had a small internal IT department, access to IT skills it needs to keep up with policy and structural changes in the NHS.
Capita will take on responsibility for providing the trust's datacentre, network, and helpdesk services for 1,200 staff across more than 50 sites. Eight of the trust's IT support staff have transferred to Capita under the deal.
"We needed to make an increased investment in the infrastructure of the primary care trust. We came to the realisation we were looking at a real capacity and capability issue," said Richard Scowen, associate director of ICT.
Capita will use virtualisation technology to reduce the number of servers the trust needs - currently more than 30 - to run SQL databases, Microsoft Sharepoint and bespoke NHS applications.
The supplier will provide the trust with a dual datacentre, to provide back-up in an emergency. The trust will have two network access routes to the datacente, providing a back-up,if one route goes down.
"From a business perspective, we were very clear we were not looking at this as a cost saving mechanism. But we are looking at this to develop a more robust infrastructure and improve the services delivered to us," said Scowen.
Hounslow took the outsourcing route after being unable to find suitable NHS organisations to share IT services with. "The disbenefits outweighed the benefit," said Scowen
Scrowen predicted that an increasing number of primary care trusts would go down the outsourcing route as they grappled with the complexities of meeting NHS policy changes.
"Unless you add to your team by 50% or 100% you are not in a position to deliver high-quality support. Given the number of policy and structural changes happening in the NHS, this is quite an exposed position," he said. "I think you will see more NHS primary care trusts outsourcing support."