IBM has signed a contract with University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust to provide IT management services, in a major outsourcing deal.Leicester's Hospitals Trust has tasked IBM with providing its Information Management & Technology (IM&T) services following an agreement being made in prior last month. The deal will see IBM partner with IT consulting firm NTT Data to provide a range of services including Electronic Patient Record (EPR) management.Plans to introduce a private sector partner to manage IT systems began in November 2011, with IBM subsequently being selected as the preferred bidder.It is expected that it will take up to 18 months to complete the transition of management over to IBM, beginning with the introduction of a clinical portal for doctors to access patient information."This is a very exciting partnership and could be the single most important thing that we have ever done in terms of improving technology in our organisation," commented Dr Kevin Harris, medical director at Leicester's Hospitals."There are a number of projects we're looking to get started to give some early benefits whilst we procure an EPR, one of them puts patient information at the fingertips of our doctors. "We will be creating a clinical portal where doctors can access all of the information about their patients, from letters to results of diagnostic tests."Andrew Seddon, Director of Finance & Business Services at Leicester's Hospitals said that it the contract tender attracted significant attention IT services firms. "The procurement process attracted strong interest from the market," he said. "The bids were evaluated over a range of criteria, including partnership, delivering core IT services, transformation capability as well as value for money. "We received very strong presentations from our shortlisted bidders, and we are pleased that IBM will be working with us."According to Tola Sargeant, Director of TechMarketView, there are likely to be more NHS Trusts seeking to agree similar deals in future, though the shift will not be all-encompassing."I don't think there's a 'one size fits all' answer when it comes to IT in the NHS," said Sargeant. "Some Trusts are considering outsourcing to private sector suppliers as Leicester has done, and I do expect others to follow suit."We expect a gradual uptick in IT outsourcing in the UK healthcare market. But there will also be plenty of Trusts that want to manage their own 'best of breed' approach to IT."