Channel players are questioning the terms being offered by the NHS for its £2.3bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT), following Lockheed Martin's decision 10 days ago to withdraw from the bidding process.
The US giant dropped out of the running to be a national application service provider after making it to a shortlist of three last month, leaving just BT and IBM Global Services vying for the contract to supply NHS care records.
Now resellers, which will comprise much of the second tier of suppliers, are claiming they have been left in the dark as the appointment of vendors drags on.
John Griffith, consulting director at healthcare reseller Compusys, said the US firm's decision to pull out implies that the terms set for suppliers are unfavourable and offer few attractive benefits.
"It suggests that the terms set are tough," he said. "Lockheed's decision makes sense if the terms set and benefits gained do not add up from a business point of view.
"When we approach the NHS with new business there is a degree of caution which is frustrating because we are trying to build a business on this," he said.
The NHS has played down the withdrawal of Lockheed. "We are pleased that [the supplier] has given us notice of its withdrawal now, rather than at a later stage of the competition," it stated.
To date, Lockheed has refused to confirm why it pulled out.
Lockheed is also bidding for the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) £4bn 10-year Defence Information Infrastructure contract.
Robert Morgan, chief executive at outsourcing consultancy Morgan Chambers, believes that the firm may not have enough presence in Europe to handle both contracts.
"Lockheed is huge in the US but has a smaller footprint in Europe and it would struggle to bid for both the NHS and MoD contracts," he said.
"The MoD project will not have as much political pressure and contractual demands as the NHS contract."
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