The controversial deal to form a joint venture between the Health and Social Care Information Centre and a private company Dr Foster LLP is to come under scrutiny from Parliament’s value-for-money watchdog, the National Audit Office(NAO).

The NAO says its study will focus on the question: “Does the investment by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in 50% of a private company offer good value for money and was the transaction conducted fairly?”

The announcement of the study says that the NAO expects it to be completed later this year.

In February 2006, the Information Centre (IC) entered into a joint venture with Dr Foster Holdings LLP  to form a new company Dr Foster Intelligence. The value of the investment into the private company is £12m for a 50% share.

The aim of the joint venture is to improve the use and accessibility of information across the health and care system, in support of the overall aim of giving people more choice and control over health and social care.

The partnership was endorsed at its launch by health minister, Lord Warner, said: "This creative partnership between the Health and Social Care Information Centre and Dr Foster will help to establish an information market which will empower managers, frontline staff and the communities they serve. The key beneficiaries will be the public."

However it proved controversial with questions raised about sharing information gathered at public expense with a private, commercial organisation.

Professor Denise Lievesley, IC chief executive, said: “We are collaborating fully with the NAO and the Department of Health in respect of the joint venture, which established Dr Foster Intelligence. As the study has not yet completed, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”

Dr Foster Intelligence’s spokesperson was not available when E-Health Insider called.


National Audit Office

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