THE Department of Health has chosen AXA Assistance to supply the software for its health helpline NHS Direct in a seven-year £68m contract.
AXA Assistance was an outside choice to win the contract, and is not one of the three companies that have been running pilot schemes of the helpline.
The choice is likely to anger Labour MPs who have been concerned about the private sector becoming increasingly involved with the NHS. AXA Assistance is owned by French company AXA, which also owns private healthcare firm PPP and AXA Insurance.
NHS Direct is designed to allow people to get medical advice over the phone from nurses using software-enabled health protocols.
Department of Health spokeswoman Katherine Staton said the three pilot schemes currently in operation were using the Task system, the HBOC Centramax system and the Access Health system.
She declined to say which three companies had made tenders for the contract, although she admitted that it was very likely that some of the pilot companies would have bid.
Staton denied that the Department of Health could be criticised for choosing the AXA Assistance system even though it had not been seen working in a full pilot scheme scenario.