Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 4 5

Anglo-Canadian, the company that HSJ last week revealed had been 'de-selected' as preferred bidder for the London independent treatment centre chain, is also at risk of losing out on a standalone 16,000-patient contract with Southend Hospital trust, HSJ can reveal.

A memorandum from the ITC programme's national implementation team to the London chain's NHS board - seen by HSJ - reveals that the NIT has 'similar concerns' over Anglo-Canadian's Southend tender to those which led to the company's de-selection from the London chain.

And the memo informs the chain board they are required to 'support our robust case for de-selection of Anglo-Canadian on London chain' because the deal - according to the Department of Health - did not represent value for money.

Southend Hospital trust acting chief executive Chris Humbles said the trust was in discussions with the DoH, the NIT and Anglo-Canadian over the future of its ITC. A DoH spokesperson confirmed that the negotiations were ongoing.

Following the de-selection of Anglo-Canadian, trusts in the London chain are re-considering their options on how to provide for patients. Averil Dongworth, chief executive of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals trust, which is part of the chain, told HSJ that the trust was working with North Central London strategic health authority and other chain members to decide what steps should be taken. But she said the decision lay with the DoH.

'If the decision is to find another provider, we will be happy to use them because it gets us out of a problem, ' she said. 'But we need to look at things such as [possible] ways of delivering work locally.'

Ms Dongworth said over the last 12 months the trust had been working closely with local primary care trusts and had started to enter into agreements about moving work to them.

Meanwhile, as HSJ went to press, an announcement was expected that Nuffield Hospitals had become the first private domestic provider to win a contract for work under the government's ITC procurement programme.

Nuffield is thought to have been awarded a contract to supply approximately 15,000 mainly orthopaedic operations over the next year at its 44 private hospitals.

HSJ understands the deal is extremely competitive, offering operations close to, or even below, NHS cost price. The contract is a significant step for Nuffield which, along with the other domestic providers, has so far been shunned by the DoH.

Sweden's Capio Healthcare has been awarded the rest of the£25m contract. Capio and the DoH are also expected to sign a contract tomorrow to provide a spine chain of ITCs from April 2005.