SchlumbergerSema has snared the first contract in the £2.3bn NHS IT programme, for a national electronic bookings system.
The system will allow doctors and patients to book initial hospital appointments electronically and is a crucial step in redesigning the NHS around patient needs, according to health secretary John Reid.
The £64.5m, five-year contract is for the provision of core services, with options to extend the deal and the services provided.
New software will rolled out to more than 30,000 GPs connecting them to 270 hospitals. The first electronic bookings are scheduled for summer 2004 and the project is due to complete by the end of 2005.
Some doctors have questioned whether the NHS has the capacity to offer the sort of flexibility that ministers expect of the new system.
Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, was confident that it would make a real difference. "The electronic booking programme will bring substantial benefits to patients and to people working in the NHS."
He added that the contract will provide "significant protection to the NHS with regard to delivery and performance. A high degree of assurance is in place regarding confidentiality".
Last week, the national programme for NHS IT pushed back the date it expected to award key Local Service Provider contracts for London and the North East from 31 October to 21 November.