Six companies have been shortlisted to run the Department of Health's NHS Choices website, HSJ can reveal.

The companies bidding for the£80m contract include the current provider Dr Foster Intelligence and a number of major UK IT players.

Capita, Serco, Fujitsu, IBM and the Indian-owned Tata Consultancy have all been picked to go through to the next stage of the government's bidding process.

Fujitsu confirmed it had been shortlisted. Capita, Serco and IBM declined to comment. Tata Consultancy could not be contacted.

However, HSJ understands that three original bidders - Kentucky-based healthcare benefits company Humana; Atos Origin, which runs the NHS choose and book system; and BT - have all failed to make it through to the second round.

A spokeswoman for Humana said the company was "assessing partnership options in conjunction with the shortlisted organisations".

NHS Choices offers a wide range of information to the public, including an A-Z of conditions and treatments, and health promotion information.

There are also directories that enable users to find, compare and rate health services.

The original advert for the contract, which appeared in the Official Journal of the European Union in December, described NHS Choices as "the primary public-facing online service of the Department of Health".

NHS Direct has offered its services to the bidders as a sub-contractor for NHS Choices.

The contract is expected to be signed in June. A DH spokeswoman confirmed the names of the companies on the shortlist and said that there had been "strong interest" in the tender.

She said that the six companies left in the running would be invited to present final formal bids which will be evaluated by the DH in late April.

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