It is the first time the line-up has been reviewed since its creation four years ago. Fishburn Hedges, Geronimo Communications, Harrison Cowley, The Forster Company, Munro & Forster, Porter Novelli, QBO Bell Pottinger and BB Carlson are all on the DoH list.
There are concerns among agencies that overspending may trigger a cut in PR budgets. A DoH spokeswoman declined to clarify whether impending NHS cost cuts would affect spending through the PR roster.
The DoH has yet to hire an agency for its planned £50m sexual health campaign, due to launch this spring. The department has pledged to make an appointment by the end of this month.
A new line-up of agencies is expected to be in place by August. The DoH will accept pre-qualification questionnaires from mid-April.
The department boasts one of the most sophisticated PR arms in government, with complex media monitoring systems that rate individual journalists (PRWeek, 2 September 2005).
DoH press officer Kate Evans said it was 'not possible to assess how much business has been put through the [existing] roster as it is
open to other government agencies and departments'.