Reaction to last week’s publication of the tender for a catalogue of additional healthcare IT suppliers was broadly positive, generating questions about how soon the extra solutions and services would be available not whether the new approach was a good idea.

Predictably, the supplier community welcomed the opportunity opened up by the tender. Nick Kalisperas of Intellect, the UK trade body for high tech industry, commented: “It’s broadening access, so it’s a welcome development. It provides Connecting for Health (CfH) with access to the wider market.”

Healthcare systems specialist, System C – which has just won the contract for an island-wide system in the Isle of Man against competition from CfH suppliers iSoft and Cerner – described the catalogue as “an exciting development.”

Director, Markus Bolton promised: “We will be bidding for it aggressively.”

Stephen Critchlow, executive chairman of Ascribe, which has assembled a portfolio of healthcare IT systems outside the National Programme for IT by organic growth and acquisition, said: “I have never been more optimistic.”

A declared sceptic about the national programme, he commented: “I don’t believe any national strategy will ever work – other than one to devolve [decisions].”

Simon Manley vice president, McKesson UK said: “I think it is excellent for the market as it allows key companies like McKesson back in to assist the NHS in attaining its goals.”

Jim Middleton, Siemens Medical Solutions’ director of managed services and IT solutions commented: "We welcome this new opportunity to engage with NPfIT. Siemens has proven over the last three years its ability to deploy sophisticated workflow enabled clinical solutions globally.

“The changing business challenges within the NHS require flexible solutions for rapid implementation and we believe that Siemens is able to make a positive contribution to meeting changing NHS demands.”

iSoft, which holds major contracts with the national programme and whose delivery problems have led to its well-documented financial problems, also welcomed the tender.

“We actually see this as a major opportunity for iSoft. We have lots of market-leading products out there and local ownership is a good thing,” a spokesman said.

Commons Public Accounts Committee member and stern critic of the national programme, Richard Bacon, MP, said: “This is an interesting development which covers almost every possible area of health software systems. While the size is relatively small so far, it is a tacit admission that the current approach to NHS IT is not working”.

“This could be the start of a new direction which transforms the national programme for IT in the health service into something quite different. More clarity is needed about what will be available and how fast people in the NHS will actually be able to acquire systems from these new suppliers”.