The NHS has extended a contract with Accenture to manage its NHSmail service serving ~1.7 million users, clarifying for the first time that the managed email services contract will now cost a final £160 million.
Accenture took over NHSmail in 2015. Working with Avanade, Microsoft and the NHS in 2020 it migrated 2.1 million mailboxes and two petabytes of data off Microsoft Exchange 2013 and to Exchange Online.
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NHS Digital said in late August 2022 that the contract extension came amid a "need for modification brought about by circumstances which a diligent contracting authority/entity could not foresee."
It cited the introduction of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) as core to the need for the extension.
Accenture NHSmail contract extension: ICS data challenges cited
In April 2022, the British government passed the Health and Care Act 2022.
It has been described as "the biggest legislative overhaul of the NHS in a decade" and introduced 42 area-based ICSs as new organisational units in the latest attempt to tackle huge pressures on the NHS. The reforms came as waiting list for routine hospital care reached a record high of more than six million – with around 300,000 people waiting over a year -- and staffing gaps having reached over 100,000.
NHS Digital said that the move to ICSs meant that "Organisation Data Service (ODS) codes would [need to] be changed, and users may be moved from one organisation to another. One organisation may be split between different ICS’s" adding in a contract notice that "the data will also need to flow appropriately between the organisations and would need to be ‘rehomed’ within the NHSmail portal to the new ODS code".
(ODS codes are unique code created by the Organisation Data Service within NHS Digital, and used to identify organisations across health and social care. Many shared NHSmail email addresses include an ODS and the changes mean a lot of email address-wrangling in the wake of the organisational shake-up).
NHS Digital added in the contract extension notice that ahead of the legislation landing "the level of detail regarding which Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s) would be merging, what GP’s and trusts would be included or involved or how social care would be impacted at the time of the change was relatively unknown."
The initial 2015 contract was only published with a range of £120 million - £350 million.
NHS Digital has now confirmed that the initial five-year Accenture NHSmail contract cost it £115,588,735 and the two-year extension will cost it a further £45,295,116. It will now run to 21 March 2023.