Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, said the decision to create just five local service providers would allow a speedy procurement process while making the eventual contracts valuable enough to attract top-tier suppliers.
He told the Healthcare Computing conference in Harrogate last week that the boundaries of the local service providers would match England's regional government borders. However, England is divided into eight regional government areas plus London, so it is not clear how the structures will work.
A spokesman for Granger's office said regional pairings had yet to be decided. He conceded that firms seeking to become local service providers would need this information to draw up meaningful plans, and said a decision would be made shortly.
Murray Bywater, managing director of health specialist Silicon Bridge Research, said the potential pairings were not obvious, geographically or in terms of systems and suppliers.