Three bidders have been shortlisted for a £1bn, 10 year contract to provide critical primary care support services, NHS England has confirmed.

The tender is one of largest single outsourcing deals ever proposed in the NHS.

The three shortlisted bidders are:

  • Capgemini, a global consultancy and outsourcing firm, with South East Commissioning Support Unit;
  • Capita with Anglian Community Enterprise (a social enterprise providing community services in north east Essex); and
  • Equiniti, which specialises in finance and administration.

CSUs were understood to be interested in bidding for the services. However, HSJ understands they were barred from directly applying. This is because they are currently part of NHS England, and any decision to award the contract to them could be challenged under procurement law once the units become autonomous in 2016.

Final bids will be submitted at the end of February and the contract will be awarded in “early spring,” according to NHS England.

NHS England issued a contract tender notice in the autumn, appealing for bidders to run primary care support services. The national commissioning body decided to outsource the functions last summer.

The services going out to tender include back office functions that are essential to the functioning of NHS primary care. They include maintaining practice lists; administrating prescription payments, pensions and medical records; and running screening programmes.

Among the companies that initially expressed an interest were multinational arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and private security giant G4S, whose handling of the 2012 London Olympics security contract attracted severe criticism.

HSJ understands that although Lockheed Martin attended a bidder’s day hosted by NHS England, they did not submit a bid.

An NHS England spokeswoman said: “We are pleased to confirm that following a positive response to the advert and a rigorous shortlisting process, we have three bidders to take forward in our procurement. We are looking forward to receiving final proposals and we are confident that any of these suppliers will enable the [primary care support services] to be delivered innovatively, efficiently and safely.”