Fourteen private firms have been appointed by the Department of Health to help primary care trusts commission services, HSJ can reveal.

The list of suppliers appointed to the framework for securing external support for commissioners (FESC) is: Aetna Health Services UK; Axa PPP Healthcare Administration Services; BUPA; CHKS; Dr Foster, Health Dialog Services Corporation; Humana Europe; KPMG; McKesson Information Solutions; McKinsey; Navigant Consulting; Tribal Consulting; UnitedHealth Europe; and WG Consulting Healthcare.

The NHS organisations that will be allowed to pilot the scheme are: Ashton, Leigh and Wigan PCT; Hillingdon PCT; Cambridgeshire PCT; North East Lincolnshire PCT; West Midlands Commissioning Business Support Agency; Hampshire PCT and NHS East of England. In the East of England a number of PCTs could be involved but the strategic health authority is acting as an intermediary on the pilot.

The DoH said the 14 suppliers had gone through 'a robust pre-qualification process'. They will be able to offer a number of services to PCTs, such as data analysis and contract management expertise, to improve commissioning.

FESC is part of a wider programme to improve commissioning and lessons from the pilots will be shared across the NHS. Before the pilots can begin, the trusts will have to talk to the firms to see if they can offer the sorts of services they want.

Hillingdon PCT has already selected BUPA as its preferred bidder to help it improve commissioning (for more background, click here).

The DoH stressed FESC suppliers would not be allowed to deliver patient care in their pilot area.