The National Health Service has signed up three information providers to create a new national health information extranet.
The agreements with Dialog, BioMed Central and ProQuest are part of the National Core Content Project, which aims to give the NHS's 1.2 million staff, plus other NHS-related workers, electronic access to core information resources.
Information resources have been handled at a local level until now, but a decision was made last year to centralise the data.
"We get better value for money and a better [data] collection, too," project manager Scott Gibbens said. Gibbens was hired last August on a two-year contract to manage the project.
The deal is worth more than £4.8m over the first three years, he added, but he declined to specify how much it was worth per company.
Users will be able to log in using a name and password to the extranet, and will gain access to seven Dialog databases, linking to more than 800 full-text health-related titles. They can also self-publish health-related articles for peer review.
Dialog will supply the seven abstract databases, called Medline, Psycinfo, Cinahl, Embase, British Nursing Index, AMED and DH-Data. Dialog collects and categorises information from 1.4 billion resources, on the internet and in publications internationally.
The Dialog databases will also link to more than 800 full-text journals on all aspects of health care.
BioMed charges authors to publish articles and then provides them to readers free of charge, although it is waiving the cost of publishing for NHS staff.
The system has been running for two weeks, but was not announced until this week. "We wanted to wait until it was running properly. There have been too many IT disaster stories."
The system will grow over the coming year, with possible connections to the National Electronic Library for Health and with more databases added