BT has dumped one of its main contractors in its 10-year project to upgrade the NHS, GE Healthcare, because it took too long to upgrade systems.

BT will transfer GE Healthcare's projects to Cerner of Kansas City, Missouri, a rival company within the next two months.

The UK government is overhauling the technology within the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Wales, digitising patient records and creating an advanced communications infrastructure. But the £12.4 billion program has been beset by some delays caused by supply problems from subcontractors, including IDX.

Only yesterday, a storage failing in a data centre operated by another main contractor, CSC Alliance, has caused 80 NHS Trusts to lose access to all their computer systems.

Fujitsu Services, one of the four prime contractors for the NHS technology revamps, dropped IDX in April 2005 in favour of Cerner, citing slow progress. The NHS has held the prime contractors responsible for delays, withholding payment until services are delivered.

In March, Accenture reported a loss of $450 million in its second quarter due to losses from NHS contracts.

BT is responsible for the Care Records Service, which will make electronic patient records accessible through a nationwide network called the National Data Spine.

A government audit found in June the National Data Spine is about 10 months delayed, and the Care is about two years behind. BT is also building the New National Network (N3), an enterprise-class WAN with broadband and fibre Ethernet.