Capita is the preferred bidder for a £400 million contract to deliver administrative support services for primary care services in England.

NHS England has picked Capita ahead of Capgemini and Equiniti to be preferred supplier for the national contract, which is due to run for seven to ten years.

The contract covers a range of ‘back office’ services for GPs and other primary care professionals, such as maintaining practice lists; payment, finance and audit functions; HR and pension administration; and support for administrative and clinical systems.

Many of these functions are currently managed in-house by NHS England, which inherited responsibility from primary care trusts when they were abolished by the Health and Social Care Act 2012.

During 2013-14 providing these services cost NHS England £100 million, although a series of cost cutting measures, including several office closures, have reduced this annual spend to around £60 million.

Capita said in a statement that its plans for primary care support services – including a “common set of services, processes and standards to improve the quality, reliability and sustainability of administration support services” – will support these efforts to reduce costs.

“Accessible services and better ways of working will contribute significant savings in keeping with NHS England’s commitment to reduce administration costs and protect investment in frontline care," it says.

NHS England went to tender in November for a framework worth £ 1 billion to cover primary care support across the UK.

A spokesperson told Digital Health News the discrepancy between this framework and the £400 million contract is because the potential deal with Capita only covers primary services for organisations covered by NHS England.

There is still room for the contract to grow up to a maximum of £1 billion if other NHS services, such as NHS Wales or NHS Scotland, agree to join the deal under the same terms as NHS England. These organisations have four years to do so.

The decision to publicly tender for primary care support services was made in July 2014 after NHS England turned down an offer from Shared Services Connected, a cabinet office joint venture, to handle these functions.