IT is a nine-year, £325 million IT contract linking, initially, 4600 NHS and local authority sites, with the prospect of extending the network to every public sector body in Scotland.

Capita, which won the contract, is now creating the computer network that could potentially link every hospital, clinic, pharmacy, school, university, council office, Government department, police and fire station.

BT had been in the running for the contract and had taken legal action after it missed out.

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It still hopes for £20m compensation.

Yesterday, Capita executive director of IT services, Peter Hands, aware that other public IT schemes have foundered, insisted the network will be trouble-free. He says other failures involved difficult specifications and the creation of complex software solutions.

The Scottish Wide Area Network (Swan), which is aiming to save the bodies £4m a year, is not like that, says Mr Hands. It is huge but not all that complex. It does not involve bespoke software and complex "re-engineering" of business systems. Instead, it is like buying a big number of off-the-shelf boxes with a simple system to link them.

The more public sector bodies join, the cheaper it will become and the greater the savings, insists Mr Hands, who was born in Saltcoats and is a graduate of Strathclyde University.

He says the push for Swan came partly from the need for savings, and from the political imperative to link NHS and local authority systems to cope with social care services' demands.

Mr Hands rejected fears that linking so many sys-tems would have data protection implications. "Swan will not hold any information. It is simply a network to move information," he said.

He insists the ability to share information comes from informed decisions by each organisation - social work, GPs, or potentially the police when dealing with vulnerable adults.

"All we do is remove barriers to responsible bodies seeking to share information, where previous IT syst-ems acted as an impediment to that," he said.