NHS to call in agency for launch of £6bn IT project

NHS comms chiefs have drawn up a shortlist of agencies for a comms campaign worth up to £2m a year in fees around one of the largest and most controversial IT projects in the NHS’s history.

The account involves handling internal and external comms for the launch of a £6.2bn online medical records system.

The proposed system will link GPs’ surgeries, providing online records for up to 50 million patients. Its complete roll-out is intended for 2010.

The NHS National Programme for IT is overseeing the pitch.

A spokesperson for the programme said: ‘We have invited agencies from the Department of Health roster to tender for the work of producing and delivering substantial public information campaigns over the coming year in support of the NHS National Programme for IT.

‘The campaigns will be centrally planned and mainly delivered locally.’

The brief is understood to kick off with a drive to inform health professionals of the project’s implications but will extend to the general public. The contract will initially run for a year with the possibility of a year’s extension.

The winning agency is expected to tackle the issue of growing doctor and patient concern over confidentiality with the prospect of health records available online.

Last week in Brighton, PM Tony Blair reiterated the Government’s commitment to modernising the NHS.

The pitch comes three months after the DoH launched its biggest-ever internal comms programme to promote best value among staff. The scheme is being handled by live-event firm Jack Morton Worldwide.

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