The UK Department of Health and Intellect, the trade association for the technology industry, have published a joint plan designed to "help build a new and vibrant market for IT across the NHS".

The plan follows the Department of Health's announcement in September of a partnership with Intellect designed to "build confidence in the wider use of IT as a means to benefit patient care".

Intellect's members include a number of outsourcers who provide services to the NHS, many of them currently under scrutiny as to whether they provide value for money to the taxpaper and are fully beneficial to patient care. The government is already in the process of re-negotiating contracts with many of those major government suppliers.

John Higgins, Intellect director general, said: "Stimulating the market is as much about having informed customers as a responsive supplier community. With the Department we have outlined a new approach to engaging the customer and supply side in a more collaborative and transparent way."

The pubished plan includes an "NHS Information Strategy" to cover the direction of healthcare IT in the next five to ten years, moves towards better informed managers and other customers in the NHS, joint communications and joint working, information sharing, standards and procurement.

The IT industry and healthcare professionals have been invited to give their views on the proposals by the end of this month. A final plan will be published by the end of the year.