The Health and Social Care Information Centre has confirmed that Accenture is its nominated preferred supplier for the NHSmail service.

A spokesperson told EHI News: “Accenture was selected from five suppliers procured from the Crown Commercial Service managed email framework, using a further competition.”

The HSCIC narrowed the field to BT and Accenture in December last year, and then asked both to provide more information.

The NHSmail contract was agreed as part of the government’s managed email framework, which allows public sector bodies to acquire email services through a single agreement. The total framework is worth £120 million to £350 million, although the HSCIC did not specify what the Accenture contract is worth.

No details have been released about the systems that Accenture will be using, but EHI News understands that NHSmail will remain on a Microsoft Exchange platform, with an additional offer to use Microsoft Lync, an integrated directory, diary, and messaging system.

NHSmail was launched in 2002 as a national directory service and an email address for life for NHS staff. It was one of the first, national services to be delivered after the launch of the National Programme for IT in the NHS.

It remains the only NHS email system accredited with ‘official sensitive’ status and backed by medical organisations for the exchange of patient identifiable and sensitive information.

A September stakeholder meeting was told that in future organisations will have to options; to use NHSmail fully, or to use their own email systems fully.

If they choose the latter option, they will have to get their system accredited to the ISB1596 standard, connect it to NHSmail, and then close down all their old NHSmail accounts.

The meeting was told that 226 out of 550 NHS organisations have indicated that they want to use NHSmail in the future, with 86 saying they want to run their own secure email system.

The rest have been waiting for clarity about who will provide NHSmail2 and what it will offer.  

Cable and Wireless has provided the service since its launch. It initially used the Mirapoint platform but moved onto the Microsoft Exchange 2007 platform in 2009. Since then, use has grown steadily.

At one point, there were more than 1,100,000 NHSmail accounts. However, as part of the preparation for the transition to NHSmail2, inactive accounts have been removed.

The HSCIC says there are now 920,000 registered accounts and 730,000 active users. They are expected to be migrated onto the new NHSmail service over the current financial year – as long as their employing organisation has decided to use it.

The HSCIC looked at a number of options for replacing the NHSmail service, which has been running in “standstill” mode since April 2013.

It looked at splitting its different components between different suppliers and at making it part of the government G-Cloud framework.

But in the end it set out to find a replacement. The other three suppliers in the running were CSC, Vodafone, and GDIT.