The Cabinet Office has blocked the renewal of Capita’s contract to run NHS Choices.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre is looking at contingency planning to transfer the service and staff from the company.
The centre’s latest board minutes include a risk register that states:
“Cabinet Office will not authorise NHS Connecting for Health to renew the NHS Choices contract with Capita. Therefore there is a risk that the HSCIC may need a contingency involving the transfer of the service and staff from Capita.”
Capita’s £60m three-year contract to run NHS Choices expires in March, but includes an option to extend for a further two years.
A DH spokesman said a number of organisations were involved in discussions regarding the future service.
“This includes the NHS Commissioning Board, Capita, Cabinet Office, Department of Health/NHS CfH and the current Information Centre.
"We are working to identify the way forward and work through the transfer of staff if required. There will be no adverse impact to service users as a consequence of the planned changes."
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said:
“We want to get the best value for every taxpayer pound we spend in every Government contract, and saved £800 million by renegotiating contracts in 2010-11 alone.
“Government departments are encouraged to continue to drive competition and innovation amongst a range of suppliers, including SMEs, and must demonstrate that every option to cut waste and make savings are explored, especially when opportunities to review large-scale contracts arise.”
The NHS Commissioning Board has already outlined plans to build a customer service platform to replace NHS Choices.
The new platform, referred to by NHS chief executive David Nicholson as the “daughter of NHS Choices”, will provide transactional services where people can book appointments and feedback about services in real-time.
It is due for an “alpha launch” next month and will be fully launched in November.
NHS CB national director of patients and information Tim Kelsey told a conference in December that NHS Choices and the online version of NHS Direct and NHS 111 would be merged into one point of access and patients would be encouraged to use it, “in preference to engaging with the physical services”.