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The NHS wants another £2bn to pay for projects designated for its IT procurement programme, the FT reports It needs the extra money in 2006 and 2007 to meet obligations to suppliers, whose firm tender prices are coming in higher than expected.

Richard Granger, NHS IT director, is negotiating with John Reid, health secretary, for the additional funds. "The programme needs a sustainable level of funding, he told the FT. "We are right in the middle of dealing with this.. I am looking for an extra £2bn." Reid has already approved a budget of £2.3bn, so this means the NHS information technology programme has almost doubled in price, before it's even got started.

The NHS, the UK's biggest civilian IT buyer, is to spend billions to update health service computer systems. The end result of this investment should be an integrated patient record, prescribing and booking system.

If Mr Granger succeeds in securing the extra money, NHS spending will jump from £850m in 2002 to £3.2bn a year in 2007, according to the FT. He expects the NHS will recruit an additional 7,000-10,000 IT staff, joining the 20,000-strong current IT employee roster. ®

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