Your editorial ('Criticism of Dr Foster JV masks the real story about poor data', 8 Feb) portrays the National Audit Office as worrying over a relatively technical issue of competitive tendering when the real story is about the lack of good data in the NHS. This is to misunderstand our report.

Your editorial ('Criticism of Dr Foster JV masks the real story about poor data', 8 Feb) portrays the National Audit Office as worrying over a relatively technical issue of competitive tendering when the real story is about the lack of good data in the NHS. This is to misunderstand our report.

Our report is not questioning the need for good informatics in the NHS or indeed the value of properly conducted ventures with the private sector. We fully agree with both, as the report makes clear.

The real point is that, without a fair competitive tender process or advertising the opportunity to the market, the Information Centre was unable to demonstrate why the joint venture with Dr Foster was the best way forward or that it represented value for money.

This is not to say that a competitive tender is always necessary to select a joint venture partner. But, in this instance, there were other private sector companies operating in the health informatics field. A competitive tender would have demonstrated that the choice of company was the right one.

There are clear principles here about procurement which go beyond the details of this particular deal. These principles should be taken seriously by all of those in the public sector responsible for establishing joint ventures and any other forms of public/private partnerships.

Julian Wood, Director of Marketing and Communications, National Audit Office