The Department of Health is this week expected to announce the winner of the three-year, £80m contract to run NHS Choices, the patient portal for health service.

Gordon Hextall, acting head of NHS Connecting for Health, said at a news conference last Thursday, 10 July, that an announcement of the NHS Choices contract was “due next week.” The procurement is being run by the Department of Health, with involvement from NHS CfH which recently took over responsibility for the portal.

As part of the development of NHS Choices, far greater prominence is to be given to transactional services such as the patient accessible HealthSpace electronic record. There will also be more information on the quality of specific NHS services, together with self care guides.

Further planned developments include using NHS choices as a channel for appointment bookings, ordering prescription refills, communications between patients and their GPs and personalised updates.

NHS Choices is currently run on behalf of the DH by Dr Foster Intelligence, a joint venture between the NHS Information Centre and Dr Foster.

Dr Foster is one of six companies that made it onto the shortlist of the NHS Choices procurement in February. The other five – far larger – firms in the running are Capita, Serco, Fujitsu, IBM and Tata Consultancy.

As the existing provider, Dr Foster had been considered the favourite to win the contract, but some of the other contenders, such as IBM, can show a proven track record of delivering citizen e-government and e-health transactional portals at a national level.

Award of the contract had been expected in April but was delayed until after the publication of Lord Darzi’s Next Stage Review of the NHS and NHS Informatics Review, both of which foresee NHS Choices becoming a hub for accessing NHS services.

The chosen supplier will be responsible for expanding and operating the existing NHS Choices web service and, as the service evolves, investigation. Where needed, it will also be responsible for the development and operation of other electronic channels including mobile, kiosk and Integrated Digital Television.

In April 2007, Dr Foster Intelligence was appointed by the DH to establish the service and deliver and run the website through to March 2008.