The Department of Health paid outsourcing giant Capita £108m to run the NHS Choices website, including £25m in additional charges, HSJ can reveal.

The DH paid Capita £108.2m over the life of the contract, which was just under five years, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. That included £83.5m of fixed fees and £24.7m in “change requests”, which are charges for changes to the original contract.

The department’s tender document for the contract said it was worth between £60m and £80m over three years. Capita’s announcement to the stock market when it secured the contract cited the £60m figure and said there was potential of a two year extension. The contract was later extended to run for just under five years.

A senior NHS source told HSJ the figures raised the question of whether the contract “had achieved value for money”.

The release of the figures comes at a critical point in the development of NHS England’s ambitious plans for an upgraded version of the Choices website. It is due to announce further details of this scheme in the coming weeks.

NHS England has said the new Choices website “will act as a ‘front door’ to the best information on health and care available on the internet”.  

The DH declined to respond to questions from HSJ about whether it had achieved value for money, or how much Capita spent delivering the contract.

A DH spokesman said: “NHS Choices has proved to be hugely popular. It now receives around 29 million visits per month.

“As a result of its success, extra features have been added.”

He cited examples including the information service for parents and social care provider quality profiles.

The department’s response to HSJ’s freedom of information request said it held “no information relevant to” how much Capita spent on providing the contract. However, HSJ understands Capita operated an “open book” approach to the contract, which allowed the department to scrutinise costs if it chose to.

A Capita spokeswoman said: “Based on the original fixed cost for delivery of core activity, the contract at its close should have been worth around £93m, however, due to efficiencies achieved by Capita, the contract’s core activity cost was less than this.”

She said “additional initiatives”, outside the original contract, had been added.

YearFixed fees (£m)Change requests (£m)Total (£m)
November 2008 - March 20099.81.911.7
Small part of 20134.83.17.9

Source: obtained by HSJ from the DH via a Freedom of Information request. Minor discrepancies in the figures are due to the rounding to one decimal place.