Describing the effort as "a revolution in health and care information," the UK government last month announced a program intended to result in every National Health Service (NHS) patient in England having an electronic care record by the end of this decade. British Telecom (BT) was awarded a 10-year contract to set up and run the national NHS Care Records Service. Under that contract, valued at 620 million, BT will provide the infrastructure for a service that will provide 50 million persons served by the NHS with an individual electronic patient record.

Those records will outline treatments and care received under either England's health or social care programs, and for the first time, such information will be mobile, like the patients themselves. The NHS Care Records Service will connect more than 30,000 general practitioners and 270 acute, community and mental health NHS trusts in a single national system.

In announcing the program, Health Secretary John Reid said, "The NHS Care Record will completely revolutionize the way that information is accessed and will make available efficient, secure and integrated records to the right people at the right time." He added that patient records "will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that vital information about an individual's health and care history can be available instantly to health professionals who have authorized access."

The design and rollout of the NHS Care Records Service has been organized into two parts, with services that are common to all users nationally being the responsibility of BT, the national application service provider (NASP). Services delivered at a more local level will be the responsibility of five local service providers (LSPs). The NASP and the LSPs will make information technology work across the NHS to support the creation of the records service. England's strategic health authorities have been grouped into five implementation groups known as clusters, set up to ensure that the national applications can be delivered locally, while maintaining standardization.

Two additional contracts have been awarded to LSPs for the North East and London regions. They will underpin the delivery of both the NHS Care Record and the Electronic Booking Service, which was announced in October this year. British Telecom received a 10-year contract valued at 996 million to provide systems to access and use the service and IT support at a local level in the London region. Accenture (London) was awarded a similar contract, worth just under 1.1 billion billion, to provide systems to access and use the service and IT support at a local level in the North East region. Additional LSP contracts were to be awarded by year-end for the remaining service regions: North West & West Midlands, Southern and Eastern.

German distribution deal for Cardima

Cardima (Fremont, California) has signed an agreement with Dr. Osypka GmbH Medizinintechnik (Rheinfelden-Herten, Germany) for the distribution of the U.S. firm's CE-marked products in Germany. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The agreement, which took effect Dec. 1, follows Cardima's recent receipt of the CE mark for its new Revelation Helix STX device for the treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF). That enhancement builds on the work done previously with the Revelation Helix models introduced in Europe last year.

Gabriel Vegh, chairman and chief executive officer of Cardima, said Dr. Osypka, the founder of the German distribution company, "is one of the pioneers of radio frequency ablation and noted as an innovator and value-conscious creator of many of the tools being used today in electrophysiology." He said Cardima "looks forward to expanding our revenue capability with our full line of electrophysiology products in Germany." Cardima's Revelation Tx, Revelation T-Flex and Revelation Helix linear ablation microcatheter systems are for the minimally invasive treatment of AF.

UK insurers to reimburse EECP

Vasomedical (Westbury, New York) said that five major third-party payers in the United Kingdom have expanded their reimbursement structures to include the company's enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP) therapy. The U.S. firm said BUPA, Norwich Union, Medisure, Access AXA PPP and Standard Life have authorized reimbursement for patients receiving EECP treatment to manage angina, and that Standard Life has extended its policy further to cover EECP for congestive heart failure patients.

"Reimbursement for EECP therapy in the United Kingdom's privately insured patient sector is a major step forward for Vasomedical," said Gregory Cash, president and chief executive officer. "These five companies comprise virtually all privately insured patients in the UK. We believe this should help in our efforts to obtain reimbursement from the NHS in the future." The NHS provides services for approximately 90% of the UK population.

Vasomedical, which is represented in the UK by Vasogenics Ltd., said the push in the UK "is a component of a global reimbursement strategy to make EECP therapy financially available to more patients in the United Kingdom, other countries in Europe and the international marketplace."