Healthcare IT firm iSoft's former directors and former chief executive have appeared in a London court to face charges of misleading the stock markets.

Timothy Whitson, former chief executive at iSoft, is accused by regulator the Financial Services Authority of making deliberately false statements to the market and auditors, between 2003 and 2006, in order to boost the company's share price and boost his own bonus.

Stephen Graham, the company's ex-commercial director, and John Whelan, its former finance director, are also charged. All three deny the charges.

If found guilty, the maximum sentence is seven years in prison.

iSoft is now owned by CSC and has been supplying a patient records system under the failed £12.7 billion NHS National Programme for IT. The company operates with a different management team.

The case against the former executives is related to a 54 million contract to provide a health IT system to the Irish health service. In February 2003, iSoft had been told it was the preferred bidder - and at this point it is accused of unfairly projecting cash flow - which should only have been detailed when the contract was signed.

Richard Latham QC, for the prosecution, told Southwark Crown Court: "This conspiracy lasted a very long time. ...Once the market had first been misled by the actions and deceptions of these three defendants, there was a continuing need to prolong the deception. They had to ensure that the truth never emerged."

The case continues.