A new round of alliance building is underway as IT suppliers bid to win contracts for the £5bn overhaul of the NHS IT infrastructure.
Speaking at the Healthcare Computing conference in Harrogate last week, NHS IT tsar Richard Granger said suppliers would be grouped into five regional service providers to supply five regional Strategic Health Authorities.
Resellers that want to be part of the IT infrastructure overhaul are already involved in negotiations to join consortia.
These consortia are likely to be led by the top-tier global service providers, such as Capita, IBM Global Services and EDS, with smaller suppliers being subcontracted to carry out specific work.
Steve Reynolds, services managing director at Civica, said it is becoming much clearer what the channel role will be in the NHS IT development.
"There was a lot of confusion among smaller suppliers because it looked as though only the big players would be suppliers, because of the size of the spend. But now it is clear that smaller resellers will have a role to play," he said.
Civica is currently talking to other suppliers it can work with as consortia.
"Because of its structure and bureaucracy the NHS is better at dealing with one large supplier, but the consortia model and regional split means there will be a lot in it for resellers as subcontractors," Reynolds added.
John Griffith, consulting director at reseller Compusys, said the company was used to working on a subcontracting basis with bigger suppliers. "Whenever we supply BT we have to go through Computacenter," he said.
But he warned that top-tier suppliers might be tempted to "cherry pick, which could mean less value for the NHS.
"We are already in talks with the bigger players such as EDS and Logical, but my question is: what will be the criteria for top-tier suppliers passing deals on to the second tier?
"The NHS would probably get better deals from the second tier in many cases, but the top-tier companies may take the more profitable deals."
The first two regional service providers will be named in October.
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