The Choose and Book contract with Atos has been extended for another year while InTechnology builds the new NHS e-referral service infrastructure.

The contract with Atos expires this month, but Treasury only recently approved the contract extension and funding for the replacement service.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre told EHI that is has finalised arrangements for the current e-booking service to continue whilst development of and transition to the new e-referral service is completed.

“The incumbent supplier, Atos, will continue to maintain and run the Choose and Book service for up to one year, which will include supporting transition to the new service and decommissioning the old service when the NHS e-referral service has gone live,” a statement says.

The Atos service is built around Cerner Millennium functionality and the contract is worth more than £30m a year.

Leeds-based company BJSS is developing a new integration engine using agile methodology and open source software to replatform off Millennium, meaning the intellectual property will be owned by the NHS.

The HSCIC also revealed that it has identified InTechnology as the preferred supplier for the new e-referral service infrastructure following a procurement involving the Cabinet Office G-Cloud framework.

“The infrastructure service is a critical element of the new NHS e-referral service, which is due to go live in 2014 and replace the existing Choose and Book service,” an HSCIC statement says.

“The formal contract award will follow when all necessary government approvals have been obtained and the contracts finalised.”

Choose and Book went live in 2004 after the then-Labour government promised to introduce “airline-style booking” to the NHS.

Usage hit a high of 57% in March 2009, but has since declined and stalled at around 50%. However, around 90% of GPs use it and booking volumes regularly exceed 30,000 per working day

NHS England has been running consultations on what the new e-referral service should look like. The aim is to reach 100% electronic referrals by 2018.

A national programme for IT benefits statement produced by the Department of Health and released earlier this year says that the cost of Choose and Book was £280m by March 2012. Benefits realised at that date totaled more than £820m.

An NPfIT five-year plan released to EHI under the Freedom of Information Act says that the ‘Choose and Book variation’ is expected to cost £111m between the 2011-2012 and 2015-2016 financial years.