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MS secures contract for NHS health portal spec

Producing £250,000 study

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The UK's National Health Service Information Authority has awarded a single tender for the specification of national electronic health record system to Microsoft, which does seem to suggest that a certain company will do well out of the ensuing project. The decision was taken at the NHSIA management board meeting on 7 February, and will initially be worth £250,000.

It is not immediately clear why Microsoft was identified as the supplier, but the minutes of the meeting suggest some disquiet and/or sensitivity on the subject: "Rosemary Horwood felt that the business case should state why Microsoft has been identified as the supplier in this single tender situation."

And: "Mark Freeman stressed the need to make it clear that Microsoft are not the only people involved in the core electronic record work."

The business case presented to, and accepted by, the board does not however say why Microsoft was selected, nor to they specifically list other suppliers. It simply states that the NHSIA "intends to have an initial 'core health record' available for piloting from May 2002, with full rollout planned by November 2002." The core health record service will be accessed initially "through a web-based Health Record Portal" on information within existing NHS systems.

Clearly there will be other systems and suppliers involved because of the need for the portal system to work with existing systems, but Microsoft's involvement here sounds similar to its involvement in the controversial Government Gateway project. In this case Microsoft would appear to have a fair bit of flexibility to write its own contract:

"...The contract to be based on a single tender with Microsoft. This will be based on a present framework contract, thus complying with legal competition requirements The resulting specification to be used as the basis of a business case and competitive procurement to achieve implementation of the proposed solutions."

The specification, according to the minutes, "would be used as the basis for carrying out a competitive procurement of the applications needed." So presumably tendering will be competitive once Microsoft has established the ground rules. ®

NHSIA documents:
Board papers

SANS - Survey on application security programs

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