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Dr Foster loses contract to run NHS Choices site

By Gareth Iacobucci

Dr Foster has lost out in the tendering process to run the Government's NHS Choices website, after rival firm Capita was announced as the preferred bidder for the contract for the next three years.

The contract is thought to be worth between £60 and £80m.

Dr Foster Intelligence, a joint venture between the Information Centre and Dr Foster LLP, was initially handed the initial 18-month deal to establish and run NHS Choices last year. The current deal expires next month.

The deal was controversial, as the National Audit Office had criticised the Information Centre for striking the £12m deal to create Dr Foster Intelligence without going out to tender.

In July last year, the public accounts committee produced a stinging report on the joint venture, describing it as a "backroom deal".

The Department of Health revealed that they received 70 expressions of interest for re-procurement process, with 16 organisations submitting Pre-Qualification Questionnaires, and six subsequently asked to tender for the contract.

Other firms on the shortlist included, IBM, Serco and TATA.

The website was launched at a cost of 3.6 million in June 2007 to provide patients with comprehensive and up-to date health information.

It allows patients to rate GP practices and services, but not named individuals, and provides information on waiting times, hospital ratings and available alternatives for non-emergency surgery.

The Department of Health said the usage of the site continues to grow, with roughly 2.5 million visits in June 2008, an increase of approximately 35% since the start of 2008.

The new contract is expected to commence in early autumn.

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