The NHS National Programme for IT has recruited external help to improve communication with its IT suppliers by awarding a contract to IT consulting company Ovum to provide industry liaison.

Ovum, an international IT advisory, support and market intelligence agency, will be responsible for “liaison services across the IT healthcare industry working with National Programme managers from contracting, commercial, technology and implementation strands." Tola Sargeant, senior analyst at Ovum, will oversee the contract.

Chris Dines, CEO of Ovum, said of the contract award: “We are delighted to be working with the National Programme and the supplier community to provide industry liaison and market intelligence that will support the NHS through the roll-out of this vital and exciting programme."

Director General of NPfIT, Richard Granger, said that the changes “reflect requests from several members of the supplier community".

The national programme has also asked members of UK IT industry association Intellect to consider seconding representatives from the national programme’s supplier consultation group (SCG), a forum set up last year, to help communication between the programme and the supplier community.

The main role any secondees would be to provide information on technical and contractual matters, and to act as a key channel of communication, ensuring that information is distributed to the IT healthcare community.

“The IT industry recognises its role as an enabler of effective e-health delivery,” said John Higgins, director general of Intellect, backing the proposal. “We strongly believe this new initiative has the potential to deliver real benefits to all stakeholders – customers and suppliers of IT products – involved in this extremely important programme."

In the same press release the national programme also announced that it is to hire a Programme Director to take responsibility for providing information on compliancy standards and timescales to the supplier community. EHI is also awaiting further clarification of when the position will be appointed.

The national programme said that it will continue to provide its own in-house communications to the IT healthcare community through its stakeholder engagement team.